Division II, Section III
Coach: Dave Huffine
Last year's record: 14-1, won Division II state championship
Returning offensive starters: 1, including WR Jake Roh who had 922 yards receiving and 17 TDs but with a brand new cast of athletes surrounding him now he should continue to be a game-changer.
Returning defensive starters: 2, including LB Jake Roh, the younger brother of former Chaparral standout Craig Roh is finding his own way as a potential two-way stud in the making.
Aug. 24 vs. Salpointe Catholic; Aug. 31 vs. Marcos de Niza; Sept. 7 at Sunnyslope; Sept. 14 at Desert Mountain; Sept. 21 vs. McClintock; Sept. 28 vs. Notre Dame; Oct. 5 at Mesquite; Oct. 12 vs. Shadow Mountain; Oct. 19 at Horizon; Oct. 26 at Saguaro.
Aug. 31 vs. Marcos de Niza: In the wake of being bludgeoned by Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) in the Barry Sollenberger Classic, the Firebirds faced some fire, until they went into Tempe and pushed around Marcos de Niza to recapture their aura. This Chaparral team is much different (especially early) and the Padres are a talented bunch again, this time with some steam coming out of the collective ears.
Sept. 14 at Desert Mountain: The Shea Blvd. rivalry kind of took a year off in 2011, but the Wolves figure to be improved and this is the kind of game that could swing their playoff fortunes. Chaparral's pass defense will get a pretty good test along the way, but this game could be closer to the crazy 2010 game than 2011.
Oct. 26 at Saguaro: Obviously. After Saguaro sat its starters and Chaparral crushed the backup Sabercats, John Sanders moved on from Saguaro to Arizona State. New coach Jason Mohns figures to take a different approach, and if so, a pretty heated rivalry could find itself twisted into a pretty good game.
Somehow, things changed and stayed the same all at once.
After three consecutive state championships and more external scrutiny than just about any program in the state, Charlie Ragle left Chaparral to pursue his college coaching dreams at the University of Arizona. That meant one extreme personality was replaced by its bizarro counterpart, longtime offensive coordinator and more subdued-Dave Huffine.
More things changed - namely graduated players who comprised the core of the past 2-3 title teams, but others stayed the same. New offensive coordinator Morgan Ruby has been in the program the past few years as an assistant, and Conrad Hamilton returned to Chaparral as its defensive coordinator. He'd held the job several years under Ragle but was named Phoenix North Canyon's coach in winter 2011. It wasn't his cup of tea.
Often credited as the man behind Chaparral's swarming defenses of recent years, Hamilton and his son, Jordin Hamilton, should make big impacts in their own way. Jordan Hamilton and Jake Roh offer new quarterbacks - whether it's inexperienced seniors Brad Schenker and Brad Boskie or sophomore Sean Paul Brophy - a wealth of weaponery on the outside, while Trevor Wood has big-college potential at tight end.
The elder Hamilton is considered one of the best defensive minds in the state, and it'll be put to plenty of use with only Roh (linebacker) and safety Alex Arnold returning, as the secondary will again be a strength.
Guys such as Tim Murphy, Beau Pitt, Eric Conklin, and Conner Svetly along the defense are talented but raw; same with the Firebirds' offensive line and running backs.
The known names are gone: Connor Brewer, Davonte Neal, Lucas Petrullo, Dylan Cozens, etc. but the talent is still here. How long it takes to learn and adapt what's basically a whole new team, might not even be worth a shot in the dark. No big school has ever won four consecutive state championships; As if the Firebirds don't already know that ...
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.