Paradise Valley Trojans
Conference/Region: 4A-II/Black Canyon
Coach: Donnie Yantis
Last year’s record: 7-5, lost in 4A-II quarterfinals
Returning starters on offense: 3, but no skill players.
Returning starters on defense: 5, including cornerback Nico Nicholson, who had 39 tackles last year.
Sept. 3 vs. Bradshaw Mountain; Sept. 10 at Arcadia; Sept. 16 vs. Notre Dame; Sept. 24 vs. Cactus Shadows; Oct. 1 at Mingus; Oct. 8 at Greenway; Oct. 15 vs. Washington; Oct. 22 at Cactus; Oct. 29 at Cortez; Nov. 5 vs. Thunderbird.
Sept. 24 vs. Cactus Shadows: This game comes in the middle of a brutal non-region schedule. Both teams need to re-tool after successful 2009 campaigns, and a win for the Trojans would be a big boost in making the playoffs.
Oct. 15 vs. Washington: While Cactus seems to be the likely winner of the region, this game could determine second place.
Nov. 5 vs. Thunderbird: With a tough schedule this season, Paradise Valley may be fighting for a postseason spot late. A win over Thunderbird in the final game of the regular season is essential.
Coach Donnie Yantis doesn’t like the term rebuilding, but Paradise Valley will have to re-tool after losing standouts Jake Brown, Tyree Parker and Kevin Spain from last year’s 4A-II quarterfinalists.
Mikah Ruffino will likely get the majority of carries in the backfield, while sophomore Ryan Finley will take over under center. The 6-foot-4 Finley has Yantis excited, as he has shown enough early on that a dropoff from Spain might not be very pronounced. Paradise Valley will have better receiving options this season after struggling in that area a year ago.
Three of the five starting offensive linemen return, so while Parker and Brown are gone, Ruffino should still rack up some decent yardage.
Last year, the Trojans were the preseason No. 1 team, but injuries and a key suspension to Tyree Parker in the postseason ended the team’s season in the second round. The expectations won’t be as high this year, which suits Yantis just fine. “I like to lay low in the grass a little bit,” he said.