Division I, Section II
Coach: Matt Gracey
Last year’s record: 9-3, lost to Hamilton in 5A Division I quarterfinals
Returning starters offense: 4, including running back Anthony Lopez, an agile speedster who rushed for 1,552 yards and 21 touchdowns, plus 176 yards receiving. He was also a dangerous return man and should see time at defensive back.
Returning starters defense: 6, including middle linebacker Josh Bamrick, who finished fourth in the state (according to Maxpreps.com) with 148 total tackles in 2010. Easily one of the best in the state, he’ll be the anchor of a strong linebacking core.
Aug. 26 at Highland: Sept. 2 vs. Red Mountain; Sept. 9 at Chandler; Sept. 16 vs. Gilbert; Sept. 23 at Hamilton; Sept. 30 vs. Dobson; Oct. 6 at Chaparral; Oct. 14 vs. Desert Vista; Oct. 21 at Corona del Sol; Oct. 28 vs. Deer Valley
Sept. 2 vs. Red Mountain: A great early season test against a solid opponent. Mesquite’s defense against what should be an improved Lions offense is worth watching.
Sept. 23 at Hamilton: Speaking of tests, this one is obviously the ultimate. The ‘Cats ‘D’ will have to figure a way to keep it close against the Huskies. Moral victories are usually overrated, but there would be value to hanging with Hamilton.
Oct. 6 at Chaparral: The matchup in 2010 was lopsided in Chaparral’s favor. The Firebirds may not be in Division I this year, but it’s no less meaningful for the Wildcats to play with or knock off the big boys in Division II.
Could the Wildcat be coming to the Wildcats? Maybe. Maybe not. We do know a new offensive style is already planting roots at Mesquite, where new coach Matt Gracey is bringing the trends from California to Gilbert, including a more wide-open, spread-style offense.
Fundamentals and defense have been the calling card at this Gilbert school the past few years under Mike Reardon. That shouldn’t change much in 2011, with six returning starters defensively and a strong linebacker group led by All-State candidate Josh Bamrick. Gracey doesn’t plan on changing much from the basic 3-4 scheme that’s worked so well the past couple years.
Offense has sometimes been the bugaboo, but with RB Anthony Lopez (1,550 yards rushing, 21 TDs) back for his senior season as opponent’s focal point, returning QB Steven Bevan (1,500 yards passing, 8 TD, 6 INT) will orchestrate this new, wide-open offense. It’ll be more formations, variations within those many formations and more for Bevan to process.
The key, of course, is up front, where the Wildcats must replace four of the five starters on the offensive line from 2010, including a big-time blocker/pass catcher in R.J. Rickert. Same goes on the defensive line, where much has yet to be figured out.
“We don’t have a lot of size, we’re not going to run people over with huge guys, but we’ve got some pretty good athletes,” Gracey said. “It’s a different style than we’re used to.”
That, he says, will yield some plays that regress, but a season of progress.