Andrew Garrett can probably appreciate the drama of high school football more than most coaches.
The new man at the helm of the Dysart High School program holds a theater degree from George Fox University in Oregon.
However, when it comes to thespian pursuits, Garrett has more in common with Robert Vila than Robert Redford or Robert DeNiro.
“I was more comfortable with power tools and building sets,” said the 30-year-old Garrett, who served as Dysart’s defensive coordinator last year. “I took part in theater productions, but I was a guy who worked behind the scenes.”
Garrett’s next big production will play out over Dysart’s upcoming 10-game season. The new coach succeeds Josh Mitchell, who laid a foundation of success for a football program once mired in despair.
Dysart had lost 29 of 30 games in three previous seasons when Mitchell arrived on campus prior to the 2007 campaign. In three subsequent years, Mitchell compiled a 10-21 record, including 4-6 last season.
“I’ve been here for five years now and I’ve gotten a real feel for what it takes to succeed at Dysart,” said Garrett, who began as Dysart’s junior varsity coach.
“We set standards and learned that our kids will rise to meet those standards if you’re true to your words as coach.”
In addition to a new head coach, Dysart will open the season with a new quarterback when it visits Flagstaff on Friday.
Junior Benson Grimes takes over at quarterback after incumbent Jason Flynn decided to bypass his senior football season to pursue baseball on a full-time basis.
“Jason let us know of his decision early on, so we have had plenty of time to work with Benson on the upcoming season,” said Garrett, a native of Boise, Idaho.
“Without Jason, we’re going to be more of a power running team.”
Grimes benefited from participation in summer passing leagues after receiving limited throwing experience as the junior varsity quarterback.
“I think the passing leagues were a real eye opener for Benson and he’s really blossomed with each practice,” Garrett said. “We have a lot of depth at running back, so we hope to have a 50-50 run-pass mix in our play calling.”
Terry Smith returns at running back after rushing for 554 yards on 87 carries with four touchdowns last season. The 5-foot-9, 157-pound Smith caught four passes for 15 yards in 2009.
Smith will be paired in the backfield with fullback Nathan Miller, the team’s hardest hitter.
“If you follow Nathan, he’ll lead you into the end zone,” Garrett said.
Another backfield option will be Andrew Hubbard, also expected to see time as a slot receiver.
To take advantage of its strength at running back, Dysart has switched to a two-back offensive set and will run out of the I-formation more frequently this season.
Under Mitchell, the Demons ran out of the fly formation, a misdirection run attack which was a variation of the old Wing-T formation.
Cesar Garcia and Jordan Miller will form a pillar of power as tight ends and defensive ends.
“Cesar has the best hands on the team and he’s got a big body,” Garrett said of Garcia, who led the Demons with seven sacks in 2009. “He could become the first player in team history to record 10 sacks on defense and 10 touchdowns on offense.
Garcia has always impressed coaches with his physical skills and began to produce results on the field last season.
“Cesar has always had a lot of athletic talent, but it’s been a question of maturity, He’s finally ready to be a leader.”
Two other impact linemen are expected to be transfer John George Lesau and returnee Alex Chavez.
Lesau comes from San Diego and is part of an influx of Dysart players of Samoan ancestry.
“John is a strong kid and he’s got quite a feel for the game,” Garrett said.
The team’s biggest question mark will be the young and inexperienced secondary.
“We’re not sure if they can hit, but we’re going to find out,” Garrett said.
Jon Clanton has succeeded Garrett as defensive coordinator and may be a familiar name with Northwest Valley football fans.
Clanton starred as a nose guard and fullback during the late 1990s at Centennial High School in Peoria and later played nose guard collegiately at Nebraska.
Dysart will switch this year from a 4-3 to a 5-2 defensive formation, which should help the Demons in the run-happy West Valley Region, which features powerhouse Peoria as well as Bradshaw Mountain, which returns 14 starters from a team that reached the state quarterfinals last season.
“We will stop the run at all costs,” Garrett said.
“Teams will have to beat us in the air.”