VX Football Preview: Red Mountain Lions - East Valley Tribune: Red Mountain

VX Football Preview: Red Mountain Lions

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Posted: Friday, July 27, 2012 1:17 pm | Updated: 1:42 pm, Fri Jul 27, 2012.

Red Mountain Lions

Division I, Section III

Coach: Ron Wisniewski

Last year’s record: 9-3, lost to Desert Ridge in Division I quarterfinals.

Returning offensive starters: 5, including quarterback Mason Thorman, who threw for 1,887 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season.

Returning defensive starters: 1, linebacker Dalton Kirk, who had a team-high 86 tackles and four sacks last year.

Schedule

Aug. 24 vs. Westview; Aug. 30 vs. Mesquite; Sept. 7 at Brophy (at Phoenix College); Sept. 14 at Mesa; Sept. 21 vs. Gilbert; Sept. 28 at Desert Ridge; Oct. 5 vs. Mountain View; Oct. 12 vs. Westwood; Oct. 19 at Skyline; Oct. 26 at Highland

Key games

Aug. 24 vs. Westview: The season begins with a game against perennially-strong Westview. Red Mountain believes it can hang with anyone in the state, and a convincing win over the Knights early on would help validate that train of thought.

Sept. 7 at Brophy: The Broncos are one of the favorites to win the Division I state championship. The Mountain Lions are on the next tier down, but can immediately jump into that conversation by winning or keeping this one close. Brophy won last year's contest, 31-13, and returns many of its key players, so a Red Mountain victory would be an upset.

Sept. 28 at Desert Ridge: Red Mountain surprised many by beating the Jaguars in last year's regular season, and it was the highlight of an eight-game winning streak. However, Desert Ridge exacted revenge in the playoffs. This is a budding rivalry and this year's matchup will be another intriguing game.

Outlook

The Red Mountain defense has some holes to fill, but coach Ron Wisniewski doesn’t consider that a bad thing.

The Mountain Lions are coming off a 9-3 season in which they advanced to the Division I state quarterfinals before losing to Desert Ridge. Red Mountain is losing all but one starter from last year’s defense, but Wisniewski said that just goes to show how much depth permeates the program.

“Talent-wise, we’ve reached a point where we have the ability to compete with anybody,” he said. “Even college recruiters coming through have noticed that. They’ll say, ‘You guys look like an elite program.’ A lot of these kids don’t play until they’re seniors. To play as a junior for us, you really have to be good.”

The backups and special teams stalwarts are now ready to assume their roles in the starting lineup, and Wisniewski said it’s his linebacker corps which will lead the way.

Inside linebacker Dalton Kirk is the lone returning starter after registering a team-high 86 tackles and four sacks as a junior. He will play next to Conrad Burnap, who Wisniewski said may be the best player on the team.

“That’s saying a lot, because we have guys getting college interest,” Wisniewski said. “He’s unbelievable.”

The offense should be in good hands as quarterback Mason Thorman (1,887 yards, 20 TD, 7 INT) returns for his senior season. He has two of his favorite targets back in Aeron Carr (37 catches, 593 yards, 6 TD) and Drake Pierre (26 catches, 226 yards, TD).

Red Mountain loses standout running back Marcus Brantley and backup Cougar Garcia to graduation, but should be buoyed by a pair of transfers.

Adarian Limbs played varsity football for St. Mary’s last season as a sophomore and immediately becomes one of the fastest players on the team. Colton Plourd was a standout running back at the junior varsity level for Mesa last season before transferring to Red Mountain during last school year.

“We’ll see what happens, but they’re both good,” Wisniewski said. “We think we have some ability at tailback.”

The schedule lightens considerably at the end of the season, but Red Mountain has games against Avondale Westview, Brophy and Desert Ridge all before the end of September.

Wisniewski doesn’t shy away from expectations, as he believes the Mountain Lions have the talent to be state title contenders.

“Why do this if you’re not going to try to win all the games?” he said. “We’re in a better position now than any time since I’ve been here to win a championship.”

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