Gilbert Christian Knights
Division VI, Section III
Coach: Jeff Cook
Record last year: First varsity season (7-1 playing a junior varsity schedule)
Returning starters offense: 6, including receiver/wingback Saile Dainwood. The sophomore will play a big role in the Knights’ single-wing offense. He’s a threat running or receiving and should put up plenty of yards in the wide-open 8-man game.
Returning starters defense: 6, including one of the few seniors on the roster, Mason Cook. At 5-10, 225 pounds, Cook is the perfect size to play noseguard and has the quickness off the line to wreak havoc if teams try to run up the middle.
Aug. 26 at Salt River; Sept. 2 vs. Veritas Prep; Sept. 9 at Superior; Sept. 16 vs. Valley Lutheran; Sept. 23 vs. Scottsdale Prep; Sept. 30 at Chandler Prep; Oct. 6 vs. Cibecue; Oct. 14 at Ash Fork.
Sept. 9 at Superior: This game will be the first real test to see how the Knights stack up against a regular playoff team in Div. VI (formerly 1A).
Sept. 16 vs. Valley Lutheran: The Flames were a semifinal team a year ago and feature running back Dimitri O’Brien, who rushed for over 2,000 yards as a junior. A win over Superior would be huge, a win against Valley Lutheran would be epic for a program in its first season.
Oct. 14 at Ash Fork: If there is a playoff berth at stake, this 5-hour bus ride should do wonders for the Knights’ team chemistry. The Spartans were winless in 2010, but the long trip and the possibility of cold weather will be a good test of the Knights mental toughness.
The Knights enter the first full varsity campaign with a lot to prove.
First, they want to prove to themselves that they are ready to compete as a varsity team in Division VI (formerly 1A). Second, and perhaps most importantly, they want to prove to others in their own school that the football program is going to be as serious about winning as the basketball program.
“It’s very important for us to come out and show that we are taking this sport seriously,” coach Jeff Cook said. “We want to change the mindset of the school.”
The Knights have grown into a basketball powerhouse at the small school level, but the fledgling football program is starting out with just 16 players. The theory, Cook said, is that if this team comes out and does well in its first season, some of the basketball players who are shying away from football at the moment will want in on the gridiron action.
Cook will bring a young, but relatively seasoned group to the field this year. He said many of the freshmen and sophomores on the team, including backs Saile Dainwood and Nolan Cook, both sophomores, have been playing football year-round for the last couple years.
The third member of the Cook family on the team, senior two-way lineman Mason Cook, will provide the leadership for the young players.