Poston Butte Broncos
Division III, Section I
Coach: Mike De La Torre
Last year’s record: 7-4, lost in the first round of the Division III playoffs to Liberty.
Returning offensive starters: 6, including running back Dustin French, who carried the ball 130 times for 863 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago.
Returning defensive starters: 4, including linebacker Antonio Garcia, who had 37 tackles and three sacks a year ago.
Aug. 24 vs. Flagstaff (at NAU Skydome); Aug. 31 at Tempe; Sept. 7 vs. Higley; Sept. 14 vs. Combs; Sept. 21 vs. Campo Verde; Sept. 28 at Coolidge; Oct. 4 at Perry; Oct. 12 vs. Queen Creek; Oct. 19 at Williams Field; Oct. 26 at Apache Junction.
Sept. 7 vs. Higley: The Broncos won a shootout over the Knights last season which helped establish them as a legitimate program early on. This will be their first tough test of the season and it’s an important game to win because the schedule gets more difficult as the year progresses.
Sept. 21 vs. Campo Verde: These two teams will always be linked because they began playing football the same season. The battles between them have often been competitive, with Poston Butte squeaking out a 10-7 victory last season. This is a true toss-up game that could have potential playoff ramifications for both down the road.
Oct. 19 at Williams Field: This is the last in a three-game stretch against Perry, Queen Creek and the Black Hawks. It’s not surprising that Poston Butte lost all three last year, and it will likely be the underdog in all three games again this season. A win in any of them would be a big step forward for the program.
The Poston Butte football team is not content with its success of a season ago. The Broncos burst onto the scene in Division III, winning their first six games and finishing 7-4 to qualify for the playoffs.
Coach Mike De La Torre sees a team with more talent this year and one he hopes can continue the upward trajectory. Poston Butte was beaten by Liberty in the first round of the Division III postseason in its first year playing a varsity schedule.
“Now we’ve qualified for the playoffs before, so it sets the expectation without us even having to say it,” De La Torre said. “They don’t want to be one and done.”
The Broncos return a solid nucleus on the offensive side of the ball, led by running back Dustin French. He had 130 carries for 863 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago and could see his workload increase as a senior. The team’s wideouts are also dangerous, led by big-play threat Kris Davis, who averaged 21.06 yards per catch in 2011.
The question mark is at quarterback, where Poston Butte must replace Dean Martino (1,274 passing yards, 501 rushing yards, 14 TD). The two candidates battling for the job are Robert Herrera and Anthony Whomble.
Herrera is a senior and is the better runner. He has been in the program longer and the familiarity helps. Whomble, a junior transfer from Dobson, has the better arm and is bigger.
De La Torre said he will name a clear-cut starting quarterback but could see ways to get both in the game.
“Last year we had packages to do certain things,” he said. “I’ve always been a fan of using the athletes you’ve got to make the ball move.”
Antonio Garcia was the team’s second-leading tackler a year ago as a sophomore and is back, although only three other fellow starters return on defense.
But De La Torre likes the potential of this group, and once full practices begin, he will have a good idea of the team's potential. He called last year a success, but believes it's only a building block.
"We've just got to find a way to come out on top in those close games," De La Torre said. "That's been a motivational thing for our kids. We want to win those games we lost last year."