Division I, Section II
Coach: Bernie Busken
Last year’s record: 9-2, lost to Gilbert in first round of 5A Division I playoffs
Returning starters offense: 6, including running backs Quinten Del Re (senior) and Myles Smith (junior). The Bears used a running back committee last year and expect to do more of the same this year. Del Re missed half the season with an injury and Smith filled in well. Both should see their numbers go way up in year two under Busken’s system.
Returning starters defense: 7, including safety Brock Davis. One of the Bears’ captains, Davis was in on 69 tackles last season and returns to lead a defense that had very few breakdowns a year ago, but must replace its top two tacklers, including star linebacker Zach Williams.
Aug. 26 at Corona del Sol; Sept. 2 vs. Mountain Ridge; Sept. 9 at St. Mary’s; Sept. 15 vs. Chandler; Sept. 23 at Highland; Sept. 30 vs. Gilbert; Oct. 6 at Desert Ridge; Oct. 14 at Perry; Oct. 20 vs. Hamilton; Oct. 28 vs. Maryvale
Sept. 15 vs. Chandler: The Wolves bring a lot of offensive potential into the season, and perhaps an offense that is a bit more unpredictable without star quarterback Brett Hundley running the show. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two Chandler schools, so there should be a lot of energy surrounding this one, since so many of the players know one another.
Oct. 6 at Desert Ridge: The game with the Jaguars marks the beginning of a difficult three-game stretch for the Bears. If Basha hits this point of the season with two or three losses, knocking off the Jaguars would be a huge momentum boost heading into games at Perry and then ...
Oct. 20 vs. Hamilton: No one on the Bears’ roster was around the last time Basha played Hamilton (5A-I semifinals in 2006), but it’s a safe bet that every Bears player has been eager for a chance to take on the state’s top dog. Basha, with a strong junior and sophomore class, will be looking to send a message that it will be a threat to Hamilton’s dominance in Chandler and the state.
Year one under Bernie Busken was strange. On one hand, the Bears looked like a deep playoff team after beating the likes of Mountain Pointe and Mesquite during the regular season. On the other hand, the Bears suffered two head-scratching losses: a 20-14 shocker at Yuma Cibola and then a 31-21 defeat to Gilbert in the first round of the 5A Division I playoffs.
A 9-2 record looks pretty good in hindsight, but the Bears know they have the talent to go deeper this season.
Basha has size, skill and speed on both sides of the ball and should be much more comfortable in Busken’s second season. Leading the team is quarterback Kyle Duran, probably one of the most unsung returning players in the East Valley.
As a junior, Duran threw for 191 yards per game (2,102 yards) with a .634 completion percentage with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions (seven of which came in the two losses). Duran lost his favorite target of a year ago in Dejzon Walker, but he is surrounded by playmakers.
Junior Nate Phillips caught 24 passes as a sophomore and senior wideout Keenan Garland averaged over 20 yards per catch. In the backfield, the Bears return Quinten Del Re and Myles Smith as well as all-around athlete Devin Reed.
If the Bears can maintain the kind of defense they played last year, giving up just 13 points a game, they have more than enough offense to compete with anyone.
The defense will be led by returning secondary players Bryce Cole and Brock Davis, as well as linebacker Blake Tamarkin and defensive end Ricky Fuess.
The Bears are facing arguably their toughest schedule to date, but should be battle-tested come playoff time.