Outlook: The Thunder will always have size, talent, quality coaching and expectations. It's all there again, but there isn't much starting experience to go along with it. The senior class is already tired of hearing about how this could possibly be a rebuilding year. They'll do their best to make sure the standard at Desert Vista stays the same. If it does, then the Thunder could be one of the surprise teams in 2013.
Desert Vista will have to replace many key pieces, including quarterback Matt Young (1,575 yards, 14 TD, 5 INT), running back Jarek Hilgers (1,070 yards, 17 TD) and wide receiver Kaleb Germinaro (343 rec. yards, 4 TD). Cade Van Raaphorst won the starting quarterback position this fall, beating out former Desert Ridge backup Brendon Smith.
The defense loses its top five leading tacklers but does return Jalen Jelks, whose recruiting stock blew up this summer. He verbally committed to Oregon in late July.
The Thunder is just two years removed from winning the Division I state championship, but nearly all of those players have moved on. The program looks healthy, though, and it will be interesting to see how much success it can have in 2013 with so many new central figures.
Division I, Section IV
Coach: Dan Hinds
Last year's record: 9-3, lost to Hamilton in Division I quarterfinals
Returning Starters: 3 on offense/3 on defense
Top returners: OL/DL Jalen Jelks (39 tackles, 4 sacks); TE/LB Jordan Rezac (12 catches, 166 yards, 1 TD); RB Cullen Van Gosen (16 carries, 178 yards, 2 TDs); RB Isaiah Kilby (18 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD; WR/DB Anthony Abbadessa (4 rushes, 35 yards; 10 catches, 134 yards); OL Adam Ortega; WR/DB Anthony Reaves (17 catches, 169 yards, 2 TDs).
Aug. 31 vs. Mission Hills (Calif.) at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego), 11 a.m.; Sept. 6 vs. Phoenix North; Sept. 13 at Boulder Creek; Sept. 20 vs. Marana Mountain View; Sept. 27 vs. Vail Cienega; Oct. 4 vs. Mountain Pointe; Oct. 11 at Peoria Centennial; Oct. 18 at Dobson; Oct. 24 at Corona del Sol; Nov. 1 vs. Brophy
Aug. 31 vs. Mission Hills: Three quarterbacks entered training camp and Cade Van Raaphorst left with the starting gig. The first start for anyone is interesting and it comes against a good San Diego County team that has averaged nine wins over the last seven years. The first game won't be all telling but it will give a good idea as to what to expect from the Thunder in 2013.
Oct. 4 vs. Mountain Pointe: Just a little thing called the Ahwatukee Bowl. The Thunder have had a bye week leading into this game the last two years. No such luck this time. Mountain Pointe has high expectations. Will the Thunder's be similar at this point in this season?
Nov. 1 vs. Brophy: These two teams have been state title winners in recent years, but both are replacing an awful lot in senior talent and leadership heading into 2013. In previous years, this would be a playoff teaser as they jockeyed for seeding positions. Could it be an elimination game this year?