It wasn’t a good high school head coaching baptism for former Arizona Rattlers quarterback Chad DeGrenier.
Last season as a rookie coach, DeGrenier never experienced victory as Cactus Shadows was thoroughly beaten in most of its games, going 0-10. In seven of those games, the Falcons gave up at least 57 points.
DeGrenier is optimistic the Falcons, who are in the 4A Division II Wells Fargo 2 Region this season, are in for some improvement. Whether that translates into victories remains to be seen.
"We’ve got more kids out," said DeGrenier. "That’s a good thing. We went from 70 kids to 105.
"It’s still a challenge. It’s changing the mentality."
Figuring it would take time to turn the Falcons into winners, DeGrenier played a lot of sophomores last season. Thus, this year’s team will be junior-laden. Obviously, the plan is for the Falcons to hit their stride next season when those youngsters are seniors.
"We want to win now," said DeGrenier. "We are confident."
Desert Mountain and Desert Ridge, which thought earlier this week that games they had scheduled against Phoenix Carl Hayden in September were canceled, found out Thursday the Falcons will play their varsity schedule after all.
Desert Mountain coach John Burke said Thursday afternoon he had been notified by his administration that Carl Hayden was back on the schedule and would play.
‘‘It sounded like the (Phoenix Union High School District) school board thought it would be a black eye for them if they canceled the season,’’ Burke said. ‘‘We’re proceeding as if we are going to play them our second game.’’
Desert Mountain is slated to play Carl Hayden on Sept. 9. Desert Ridge is set to play the Falcons the next week, Sept. 16.
Coach Curt LeBlanc wants to be crystal clear — if the Bulldogs struggle this season, they aren’t going to use the fact they moved up from 3A to 4A Division II as an excuse.
"Here’s what I’m going to tell my parents," said LeBlanc of a meeting with his players’ parents. "I’m not concerned about it (moving up in conference). It is the same size ball, the same size field, the same refs, the same 11 guys on a side.
"We’re not intimidated by it."
LeBlanc is concerned, though, about not knowing the Bulldogs’ opponents. They are playing in the East Sky Region. The only team the Bulldogs have faced in the region is another newcomer, Higley, and they won’t play the Knights until the last game of the season, Nov. 4.
The Buffaloes were contenders for a playoff spot in most recent years in the 4A conference. With the conference now split into two divisions and the Buffaloes in the lower division, they really like their chances.
"It allows more teams to go to the postseason," said Tempe coach Mark Rhiner of the conference split. "We are excited."
Much of that excitement stems from the Buffaloes’ offensive line. They have veterans at the tackles, which is critical considering Rhiner loves smashmouth football. He said the Buffaloes also can go to the air. As of now, seniors Donovan Garza and Raul Alcala are neck and neck in the starting quarterback race. Rhiner figures both will play.
"The kids are working hard," said Rhiner. "I really like it."
Horizon football coach Steve Casey took quarterback Dax Crum out of the starting lineup for one game late last season to allow Crum time to relax and refocus.
Casey said in retrospect, communication concerning that move wasn’t totally clear.
"I didn’t do a good job of letting him know what was going on,’’ Casey said. ‘‘I thought there was some pressure wearing on him. He was trying to make plays to please a lot of people. I think he felt the job had been taken away from him.’’
Sophomore Greg Djinis spelled Crum, now a senior, in that start. But Casey is committed to Crum.
‘‘Dax has matured a lot, and the other kids believe in him,’’ Casey said. ‘‘I think we have a little more talent around him, and with our staff being around a full year-plus, we’re ahead of the game, or we should be."