Desert Vista Thunder
Division I, Section III
Coach: Dan Hinds
Last year's record: 13-1, won the Division I state title with a convincing 45-19 rout over Hamilton.
Returning offensive starters: 5, including senior guard Zach Tamburo, who becomes the leader of the line that brings back four starters from a unit that ran for the second most yards in school history
Returning defensive starters: 4, including senior defensive end Zo Melvin, who returned after a year off (a true transfer) to be a force on the edge with seven sack.
Aug. 18 Palo Verde (Nev.) at University of Phoenix Stadium; Aug. 24 at Mesa; Sept. 7 Mountain Pointe; Sept. 14 at Westwood; Sept. 21 Corona del Sol; Sept. 28 Saguaro; Oct. 5 at Hamilton; Oct. 12 Mesquite; Oct. 19 Dobson; Oct. 26 at Chandler.
Aug. 18 vs. Palo Verde: The 2012 version of the Thunder will be in the state champion shadow until they get out and play on their own and start shedding that skin. Palo Verde is a quality program - 59-6 over the last five seasons - and a big win by Desert Vista in front of state-audience will go a long way in shaping the season.
Sept. 7 vs. Mountain Pointe: It's the Ahwatukee Bowl so there is that. The winner of this game has bragging rights for a year. Desert Vista won a shortened game last year, 24-0, and it didn't sit well on the corner of Knox Rd. and 44th St.
Oct. 5 at Hamilton: We are going to go ahead and assume Hamilton has this game circled on the schedule. The Thunder will get a chance to show this team is on par with the 2011 team if they can push the state's top program for four quarters unlike last year's regular season meeting.
Desert Vista had something special from the start last season.
There was a brotherhood that would not allow them to take a breather in fear of letting down a teammate. They, mostly 36 seniors, were on top of each from the start pushing and prodding with one focus in mind.
It came to fruition when the Thunder knocked off nationally-ranked Hamilton for the Division I state title.
The key is to 2012 forgetting about it - to a certain degree - and allowing the players who return a chance to forge a path of their own.
"We had a great year and it had a lot to do with our chemistry and what we expected from each other," senior Kaleb Germinaro said. "We have a good group back and we have to get the juniors to thinking the same we did last year.
"We had a great camp and got everything accomplished we wanted to in order to make it happen."
The Thunder will have a new cast of characters, but some of them - like lineman Dylan Fischer and defensive back Austin Hicks - got plenty of time last year as a backup or injury replacement.
Desert Vista will be ready to play with anyone on the schedule and understand there is a new standard after winning it all.
"We are going to get everyone's best game," Fischer said. "We'll bring ours, too. Last year it was enough and we think it will be again."