Outlook: The confluence of events doesn't look good on paper.
A 5-5 season coming off a slew of injuries which missed out on the Division III playoffs in 2012, now must play up in Division II in 2013.
But nobody around Poston Butte seems terribly concerned. Part of that reason is coach Mike De La Torre's natural optimism about most things. The other part being a slew of experienced kids returning from last year, injury, or both.
The Broncos return eight starters on defense and six on offense, and a couple transfers from Florence could be big additions. That's a lot, but depth is going to be an issue, especially if the injury bug waylays the Broncos as it did last year, let alone playing bigger boys (Poston Butte's 1,762 is among the smaller-sized schools in Div. II based on enrollment numbers).
"One strength I feel we will have this season is our kids have adopted the mentality of 'team first,' understanding that in order for us to be successful we have to put team goals in front of our individual goals." he said.
The two new kids to the block, juniors Zack Smith and Keyshaun Boyd, are speedsters on offense, and should nicely compliment junior running back Brandon Hatfield (who missed nearly all of 2012 with a broken foot) and 2012's leading rusher, Donte Romero, with 6-foot-4, 270-pounder Dusty Yost as the leader of the big boys doing the blocking.
The linebacker corps will be a strength for the Broncos with Chris Musselman and Antonio Garcia behind defensive tackle Gordon McKee to plug the running gaps. Riley Ing is being counted on to lead the secondary.
That defense better be ready because Queen Creek comes around in Week 1, with Notre Dame, Marcos de Niza, Mesquite and Campo Verde among the bigger challenges.
Division II, Section VI
Coach: Mike De La Torre
Last year's record: 5-5, did not qualify for Division III playoffs
Returning starters: 6 on offense/ 8 on defense
Key returners: RB Dante Romero (102 carries, 647 yards, 5 TD); LB Antonio Garcia (85 tackles, 2 FF, 2 fumble rec.); RB Brandon Hatfield (16 carries, 60 yards); OL Dusty Yost; LB Chris Musselman (62 tackles, 2 INT)
Aug. 23 vs. Queen Creek; Aug. 30 vs. Gila Ridge; Sept. 6 at Dobson; Sept. 13 vs. Marana; Sept. 20 at Notre Dame; Sept. 27 at Mountain View (Marana); Oct. 4 BYE; Oct. 11 at Marcos De Niza; Oct. 18 vs. Mesquite; Oct. 25 at Campo Verde; Nov. 1 vs. Westwood
Aug. 23 vs. Queen Creek: One of the precious few "zero week" matchups could have its moments since both schools will be a little short on practice time, but QC's running game and defense is going to provide a whole lot of info. on where Poston Butte needs to improve.
Sept. 20 at Notre Dame: Hard to pinpoint exactly what Notre Dame will be this season, but the Saints are usually pretty good, and they have some big-time players to contend with. This could be an interesting "swing" game for both schools in the march toward playoff berths.
Oct. 18 vs. Mesquite: Possible mirror images of each other. This matchup along with the following week (Oct. 25 at Campo Verde) could definitively swing the Broncos one way or another in the power rankings. It's a crucial stretch (down the stretch) for the Broncos to win a couple games and make the playoffs.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.