Outlook: It might seem odd for a program in its fourth year of existence, but, in a way, life begins anew for Campo Verde.
It won't be easy, not only will the on-field transition take time with a whole new defense (the strength of the Coyotes teams the past couple years), but Max Ragsdale's team also moves from Division III up to Div. II.
Now aligned in a Section with Marcos de Niza, Mesquite, Poston Butte and Westwood, Campo Verde will try and leave a footprint in this section as the school and it's neighborhoods continue to grow.
Speaking of growth, the Coyotes are counting on it from senior Luke Pineda, a three-year starter at quarterback now in his senior season. Pineda threw for 1,173 yards, 12 TD and 7 INT as a junior, and ran for another 500 yards and 6 TD. Offense will likely carry the first few Fridays while the defense is being reconstructed.
Pineda has high expectations following him, but he'll have plenty of help at the skill position spots. The team's two leading receivers from 2012 are back in Erick Belcher and Jordan Fickas. Gabe Ogbonnaya (545 rushing yards) is also back as the team's featured running back.
Who'll help block for these guys is the big question. Four new offensive lineman will line up in the trenches. Finton Connolly leads the lineman, with most Pac-12 schools having offered the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder.
Ragsdale and co. are rolling their sleeves up with the defense, which must be completely replaced while needing to at least reach the level of the past couple seasons (if not beyond) to hang with some of the better competition in Div. II.
Matchups such as Phoenix Thunderbird, three other Gilbert schools (Gilbert, Mesquite and Highland) along with Marcos and Poston Butte are going to offer a rude introduction to Div. II.
The challenge, of course, is exactly what the Coyotes are looking for.
Division II, Section VI
Coach: Max Ragsdale
Last year's record: 7-4, lost to Williams Field in first round of Division III playoffs
Returning starters: 4 on offense/ 1 on defense
Key returners: QB Luke Pineda (97-168 passing, 1,173 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT; 111 carries, 503 yards, 5 TD); RB Gabe Ogbonnaya (99 carries, 545 yards, 3 TD); WR Erick Belcher (32 rec., 332 yards, 4 TD); WR Jordan Fickas (21 rec., 297 yards, 3 TD); OL/DL Finton Connoly (24 tackles, 3 sacks);
Aug. 23 at Goldwater; Aug. 30 at Catalina Magnet; Sept. 6 vs. Thunderbird; Sept. 12 (Thurs.) vs. Gilbert; Sept. 20 BYE; Sept. 27 vs. Highland; Oct. 4 vs. Marcos de Niza; Oct. 11 at Westwood; Oct. 18 at Coconino; Oct. 25 vs. Poston Butte; Nov. 1 at Mesquite
Sept. 6 vs. Thunderbird: This isn't the Thunderbird squad of a couple years ago when it won a state championship in 4A Division II, but it'll still be a litmus test for Campo Verde, especially defensively.
Oct. 4 vs. Marcos de Niza: Can the Coyotes keep up? Marcos de Niza doesn't appear as powerful as the past couple incarnations, but the Padres still have athletes galore. This is what it'll be like competing against the better Div. II schools.
Nov. 1 at Mesquite: Now both schools are in Div. II and a playoff spot could be at stake here. Beyond that, a lot of kids who were once in Mesquite boundaries are now at Campo Verde because of boundary lines drawn. The guess here is a lot of kids know (and are friends) with one another.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.