Outlook: Few teams anywhere - especially Division I - have undergone as much change as Brophy, and arguably nobody plays a more difficult schedule (on paper) in the state.
Re-building? Absolutely. That doesn't mean this is some "lost" season. Given what's expected to be a sky-high strength of schedule in the power rankings, even a .500 record might be enough to get the Broncos into the postseason, and by then they'd have played such top-notch competition, the Broncos would be ready.
But that's a long way away, especially a team without mainstays of the past couple years in QB Tyler Bruggman, WR/KR Devon Allen, WR Clarence Clark and Marche Dennard at running back.
"We have just tons of new guys; inexperienced, younger players," Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. "We’re going to do what we do. You’ll see some new stuff for sure."
Nearly everyone on both sides of the ball is new, but Molander thinks the world of new QB/DB Brian Woodward on both sides of the ball, namely his ability to throw and run. Stanford-bound A.T. Hall at offensive tackle leads the big boys up front, but it's a group as inexperienced as any facet of the Broncos.
Will Edwards saw time last year when Dennard was injured, and the 5-foot-7 Edwards earned team captain with his toughness. Both he and Jack Haddon (FB/LB) and WR Isaiah Oliver (a track standout) drew rave reviews for their work and inabilities flashed during summer camps.
Woodward and Zach Kotske in the secondary will be the most veteran component of Brophy's defense, and, after splitting time between varsity and JV, but not playing last year because of family issues, senior Leonard Gutierrez returns to football as a safety.
Walker Adams, Owen Rodgers and Dillon Taylor lead the linebackers.
The renovation doesn't end at the roster, as the Broncos have a practically brand new coaching staff. Molander and defensive coordinator Gary Galante are back, and that's about it.
Two assistants left to take head coaching jobs elsewhere in Arizona, another left for family reasons, and another for health reasons.
Former college and NFL veteran (and TV commentator) Bill Lewis is coaching the offensive line. Thomas Knight, a former first-round pick of the Cardinals is coaching the defensive backs, and former McClintock coach (and Notre Dame assistant) Mike Gibbons is the team's offensive coordinator.
Well aware the team's youth, inexperience and schedule are going to provide plenty of agonizing moments, Brophy will try and see the forest for the trees. It worked for Mesa in 2009 when the Jackrabbits' unheralded regular season record (thanks to a difficult schedule) helped fuel a run to the championship game.
It also worked pretty well for Brophy in 2011, when a young Broncos squad went 5-5 in the regular season, and was a missed kick away from the Div. I semifinals.
"The key is to keep getting better and learn from mistakes," Molander said. "Throughout what’s a long season and with some help, staying healthy, things tend to work out playing tough schedules. I’m pleased with our attitude. We’ve improved and that’s a good thing. They’ve done a nice job of being coachable."
Division I, Section IV
Coach: Scooter Molander
Last year's record: 11-3, lost to Mountain Pointe in Div. I semifinals
Returning starters: 3 on offense/ 3 on defense
Top returners: QB/DB Brian Woodward (49 tackles); OL A.T. Hall; LB Zack Kotoske (65 tackles, 2 INT);
Aug. 30 vs. Desert Mountain; Sept. 6 at Hamilton; Sept. 12 (Thurs) vs. Centennial; Sept. 20 vs. Red Mountain; Sept. 27 at Desert Ridge; Oct. 4 vs. Corona del Sol; Oct. 11 at Mountain Pointe; Oct. 18 at Chaparral; Oct. 25 vs. Dobson; Nov. 1 at Desert Vista
Sept. 6 at Hamilton: The rivalry resumes, and while there's not a lot of love lost between these programs over the years, the emotions aside, it'll be a great view for Brophy to find out what it is, what it has and what it needs moving forward.
Sept. 20 vs. Red Mountain: In addition to the nail-biters these two schools have played the past couple years, not to mention a postseason history, there's a painful reality that this game could be one of the "easier" games in September for Brophy. That's not a knock on Red Mountain as much as an awareness that Desert Mountain, Hamilton, Desert Ridge and Centennial are known elites.
Nov. 1 at Desert Vista: This could be a playoff game to end the regular season for both schools. Brophy is counting on a few wins and a huge leap in strength of schedule. The latter seems destined to happen, but the former (wins) are still required, and Brophy won't get a lot of help from Dobson or Corona del Sol in the rankings.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.