Paradise Valley Trojans
Division III, Section III
Coach: Donnie Yantis
Last year’s record: 4-6, missed the playoffs.
Returning offensive starters: 5, including senior quarterback Ryan Finley, a Boise State commitment who threw for 2,908 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions a year ago.
Returning defensive starters: 6, including senior linebacker Tanner Flesher, who had 68 tackles and five sacks last season.
Aug. 24 vs. Saguaro; Aug. 31 at Coconino; Sept. 6 vs. Liberty; Sept. 14 at Thunderbird; Sept. 21 at Moon Valley; Sept. 28 vs. Washington; Oct. 5 at Arcadia; Oct. 12 vs. Sunrise Mountain; Oct. 19 vs. Cactus Shadows; Oct. 26 at Fountain Hills.
Sept. 6 vs. Liberty: These teams were tied at 14 in the second quarter in last year’s matchup when a lightning delay caused a weeks-long postponement. Liberty eventually won the game when it was finished. Paradise Valley will very likely be 1-1 heading into this contest, so it’s important to pick up an early-season win because the schedule remains tough all year.
Sept. 14 at Thunderbird: The Trojans rallied from a 26-point fourth quarter deficit and beat Thunderbird by a point in overtime last year. The Chiefs will try to pound the ball behind standout running back Kani Benoit, while the Trojans want to go through the air.
Oct. 5 at Arcadia: The Titans won this matchup last year but lost a lot from the semifinal team of a year ago. The Trojans finished last year with four consecutive losses to fall out of the playoff picture, and hope to win this one and build off it this time around.
Paradise Valley football coach Donnie Yantis knows his team’s defense doesn’t need to be great this year, but it must be much better than in 2011.
The Trojans averaged 37.6 points per game a season ago but still finished only 4-6 because they gave up 35.8 per contest. Quarterback Ryan Finley, a Boise State commitment, threw for 2,908 yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions a year ago, but needs some help on the other side of the ball.
Yantis was recently asked a question about the team’s offense, but he couldn’t help switching the conversation to the defense.
“I don’t think there was a worse defensive team at the end of the season than we were,” Yantis said. “Our defensive game plan needs to improve, and it completely has. We are light years ahead of where we were a year ago.”
Yantis said the unit doesn’t have any stars, but it’s a group which plays hard until the whistle blows.
“There’s a huge difference in the attitude of our defense,” Yantis said. “I’m actually worried. We already had a JV kid break his collarbone and I’m constantly worried they’re going to hurt somebody. They’re physical.”
If the defense improves, the Trojans should be successful because of the offensive parts in place. Finley is one of the East Valley’s best quarterbacks and he has a young wide receiver corps which should be very productive, led by Jordan Brown, who had 37 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns last year.
The offensive line should be a strength, led by Patrick Johnson, who has a scholarship offer from Idaho, while the running game should be respectable enough to keep defenses honest.
Paradise Valley started last year 4-1, including a win over Thunderbird, and lost close games to Liberty, Arcadia and Sunrise Mountain. But the team ended the year on a five-game losing streak to miss the playoffs, and it wore on the group mentally.
There’s a fresh start in 2012, one that has Yantis excited.
The late-season losing streak "crushed us,” Yantis said. “It’s like a boxer losing a 12-round fight. We lost five games by a combined 30 points. We won’t have the type of letdown we had last year. These kids are going to be very seasoned. We’ve really raised the bar.”