2008 record: 6-5, lost 1st round of playoffs
Coach: Tim McBurney, 5th year, 30-18
Returning offensive starters: 6, including quarterback Mike Benjamin, who passed for 1,198 yards and 13 touchdowns, and tackle Justin Gardner, a third-year starter on the line at a couple positions.
Returning defensive starters: 3, including linebacker Jared Jones, who had 150 tackles and 4 sacks and is a third-year starter.
Outlook: An experienced quarterback and veteran offensive line are the strengths for the Bears as they prepare for their season opener against Casa Grande. Basha’s guys up front won the lineman competition at ASU last month, which McBurney counts as nice accolade. The unit is led by two-way starter Gardner, who has his sights set on ending up at an Ivy League school.
“This is the most depth at line we’ve had,” McBurney said. “That’s a good thing to have when you can get it, so we’re excited about it.”
Basha also won the championship bracket of 7-on-7 tournament at San Diego State in the offseason. Benjamin, with a year plus of starting time behind him, is set for a solid year.
Out-of-state transfer DeJon Walker, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior from Texas, figures to make an impact. He'll help fill the void created by the graduation of the Bears' top two rushers and receivers from last season.
Defensively, third-year starter Jared Jones will be the leader at linebacker. A two-year starter on the defensive line is end John Dillon. The defense has more work to do to become a polished unit than the offense.
Sept. 4 vs. Casa Grande
Sept. 11 at Mountain Pointe
Sept. 17 vs. Cesar Chavez
Sept. 25 vs. Gilbert
Oct. 2 at Cibola
Oct. 9 at Highland
Oct. 16 vs. Dobson
Oct. 23 vs. Corona del Sol
Oct. 30 at Mesquite
Nov. 6 at Mtn. View
-- Sept. 4 at Mountain Pointe: First road game of the season and against a former region rival. The difference is the Pride has a new coach and likely won’t be as familiar as they were the past four seasons. It will be Mountain Pointe’s third game of the season.
-- Sept. 25 vs. Gilbert: It’s the Bears first game in their new region. Longtime coaches McBurney and Gilbert’s Dan Dunn should make for a competitive opener to region campaign.
-- Nov. 6 at Mountain View: The new Central Region is going to be quite competitive. It’s not far-fetched that this matchup might be for the region title on the final night of the regular season