Corona del Sol Aztecs
Division I, Section II
Coach: Tom Joseph
Last year's record: 5-5, did not qualify for Division I playoffs
Returning offensive starters: 4, including junior receiver Tevin Mayfield, who returns after leading the team in catches and yardage as a sophomore in 2011.
Returning defensive starters: 4, including linebacker Beau Sitton, one of two starters in the front seven back from last season (DL Connor Stumer being the other).
Aug. 24 vs. Basha; Aug. 31 at Westwood; Sept. 7 vs. Dobson; Sept. 14 at Highland; Sept. 21 at Desert Vista; Sept. 28 vs. Cibola; Oct. 4 vs. Mountain Pointe; Oct. 12 at Chandler; Oct. 19 at Mesquite; Oct. 26 vs. Hamilton
Sept. 7 vs. Dobson: Times have certainly changed, but Corona coach Tom Joseph and new Dobson coach George De La Torre go back many years during their Mesa district days. It's not about the coaching matchup per se, but it's a couple old-school guys trying to rebuild a couple old-school programs.
Sept. 14 at Highland: After a rough opening night against Basha, Corona has a chance to make a move with Westwood, Dobson and Highland before the schedule turns even uglier again. A clean sweep (or at least two wins) during this three-game stretch is a must for any shot at a playoff spot.
Oct. 19 at Mesquite: This was one of the best Week 9 games in the state last year. Both teams ran wild on one another (323 yards for Mesquite, 223 yards and four touchdowns for Corona's Dominic Mercurio), but Corona rolled the dice and earned only its second completed pass of the game on a 35-yard pass to Tevin Mayfield on 4th-and-5 in a 36-33 Aztec victory.
Rebuilding Corona del Sol is difficult.
The man in charge knows a thing or two about success and rebuilding, but Tom Joseph is dealing with different dynamics than his previously successful ventures at Mountain View and Marcos de Niza.
Corona is a Division I-sized enrollment in a relatively affluent area of south Tempe, but there are only 35 kids on the roster in 2012. The jump from one win in 2010 to a 5-5 mark last year in Joseph's first season running the program was substantial (though it ended at No. 17 in power points, one spot outside the playoff picture), but a couple guys who were a huge presence are now playing big-time college football (Andrus Peat, Avery Moss); not to mention 2011's leading rusher in Dominic Mercurio.
What the Aztecs have is a lot of two-way players, four starters returning from last year, a three-way competition at quarterback and many more questions than answers during these dog days leading up to opening week against Basha.
Even a few more answers won't alleviate a schedule which includes Basha, Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe, Hamilton and Chandler.
"It’s a great challenge and kids that we have are tremendous because they work and want to be here," Joseph said. "I’d say we’re ahead of where we are a year ago. Are we going to be as good? I don’t know. I can’t tell you how we’re going to be.
"I think we further along understanding what’s going on (than last August). It’s a numbers game and we just have to stay healthy."
Former Mountain View stud QB Max Hall was around during the summer helping his former coach groom Corona quarterbacks, but the position remains up in the air.
Tevin Mayfield returns and will be a solid target for whomever(s) is under center, and a couple lineman in Sam Radford and Aaron Simons will lead a small, young group up front.
Beau Sitton could be in line for a big year at linebacker and there's some veterans in the secondary with cornerback Quinn Robertson and Maceo Brown.
The rest, at least for now, is a rubik's cube.
"Just like always, we’ll take what we’ve got and do what we can with them," Joseph said.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.