It’s hard to be optimistic at a young program ensconced in one of the toughest regions in the state, but that’s how Mesa Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock wants to approach his first season at the helm of the Jaguars.
‘‘We have some good groups at our lower levels on their way up,’’ Hathcock said. ‘‘We just have to keep them here and keep them together. Right now we have a class of about 640 freshmen coming in. That’s supposed to continue. We can’t concentrate on that now. We have to work with what we have, and put the emphasis on that.’’
Hathcock, who was able to spend a few days a week with the program after he was hired, beginning in March, said the glimpse he got of the program was a ‘real eyeopener‘. As practice turned to full pads nearly two weeks ago, Hathcock was working with 36 varsity players.
‘‘A lot of these kids are fundamentally unsound,’’ Hathcock said. ‘‘Right now, they are doing a lot of thinking. Sooner hopefully than later they will be playing instead of thinking.’’
Desert Ridge already has lost two of its marquee players. Center/defensive tackle Aaron Gibson blew out a knee in camp prior to practice starting. All-region defensive back/receiver Brandon Trowbridge transferred to Chandler. Those are the type of hits Desert Ridge can ill afford.
This will be Desert Ridge’s fourth fullfledged varsity season. The first three combined were 4-27, including a one-year stint in the 4A East Sky Region. Hathcock is the third coach in this the school’ s fifth season. Last year’s 2-8 record was the Jaguars’ best in a full season. The wins came against schools that combined for one win in 2005.
Hathcock had a successful run at Show Low, which competes in the tough 3A East. He guided the Cougars to a state title and a 27-8 record in three seasons. He’s aware of what it takes to compete and win in a tough region.
Hathcock’s squad will get tested quickly. They face Mesa, which figures to be a strong contender for postseason play. Last year the Jaguars were beaten 58-6 by the Jackrabbits.