Outlook: It might difficult for a school with regular playoff appearances and 3,300 students to be "lying in the weeds," but Red Mountain is doing everything it can to not be seen (relatively speaking).
Much of the 2013 roster is different than 2012, as the Lions had a large senior class which led them to a 9-3 record and gut-wrenching, 14-13 playoff loss to Brophy in the quarterfinals.
A slew of big-time players are gone: Record-setting QB Mason Thorman, WR Aeron Carr and Drake Pierre, John O'Neal, Stormy Morley and Justin O'Neal.
With four starters back on offense and three on defense, there's plenty of work to be done, even with a program ample in numbers. The Lions were on the outside looking into most preseason top 10 lists, but they're not crying about it.
Quite the contrary.
The Lions feel they have two quarterbacks in Caleb-Murray Thomas (a potential starting linebacker) and Brennen Dobson, who was 31 of 44 for 302 yards, 3 TD and an INT in extremely limited action last season, but whom Wisniewski said, "as good a passer as Thorman but a better runner."
While nearly all the receivers and offensive line will be newcomers and four running backs are in the mix for carries, the Lions will follow tight end/linebacker Diego Hernandez' lead on defense, "one of the top 20 football players in the state yet nobody is saying anything about him," according to Wisniewski.
The road ahead will be rough: Pinnacle, a trip to California vs. Westlake, Avondale Westview, Brophy, Chaparral, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge and Mountain View comprise a vast majority of the schedule.
Even a losing record might be enough to make postseason with that schedule; not that Red Mountain knows much of anything about losing, nor do they plan to find out.
"Like Brophy, Pinnacle and many others, our schedule is a nightmare and people are questioning whether we can be a playoff team. We like it that way," Wisniewski said. "Although I definitely have my feelings about what kind of team we'll be, we'll just have to wait and see."
Division I, Section III
Coach: Ron Wisniewski
Last year's record: 9-3, lost to Brophy in the Div. I quarterfinals
Returning starters: 4 on offense/ 3 on defense
Top returners: QB Brennen Dobson (31 of 44 passing, 302 yards, 3 TD, INT); RB Colton Plourd (52 carries, 356 yards, 5 TD); TE/LB Diego Hernandez (15 rec., 135 yards, TD; 26 tackles, 3 sacks, INT); LB James Hutzler (54 tackles, 2 sacks); LB Conrad Burnap (40 tackles, 1 sack)
Aug. 30 at Pinnacle; Sept. 6 at Westlake (Calif.); Sept. 12 (Thur.) vs. Westview; Sept. 20 at Brophy; Sept. 27 vs. Chaparral; Oct. 4 at Desert Mountain; Oct. 11 vs. Mesa; Oct. 18 vs. Desert Ridge; Oct. 25 at Mountain View; Nov. 1 at Skyline
Aug. 30 at Pinnacle: Week 1 matters here, in-part because Red Mountain has so many new parts. In playing against another quality team on the road, a win here gives a relatively inexperienced bunch confidence, and that's key in the earlygoing, especially with what's coming .......
Sept. 12 vs. Westview: It's a TV game, and the Lions handled Westview in Week 1 last year. But this schedule is so daunting beginning-to-end that any win is a big deal here. Westview's style is going to test a raw Red Mountain defense all night; much like what the Lions will face every night for 8 or 9 weeks.
Oct. 25 at Mountain View: The Toros won a crazy game on Red Mountain's field last year after a goal line interception, some missed kicks and a Lions' offense which struggled mightily in the red zone. The Brown Road bash matters, and being in Week 9 could swing postseason hopes for both schools one direction or the other.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.