Outlook: Now on the verge of being an elite Division V program, Tempe Prep's last feat on its "to-do" list of reaching that point, is to stay put.
A state semifinals berth in 2012 was the best run in Tempe Prep's existence, but the wealth of seniors lost from that team means Tommy Brittain's program has to find a brand new direction in 2013.
No more Forest Redlin at quarterback and defensive back, or Levi Hartzler barreling over defenders, or Ed LeBeau creating chaos on defense.
It won't be a complete overhaul, as five seniors on offense and defense return (all being two-way starters), mostly in the trenches. But the skill position players are new, and it's a small group of seniors this year (seven) who'll have to lead a large junior class and some even younger who will see ample playing time.
Senior Benjamin LeBeau remains the front-runner to be the team's starting quarterback, while juniors Daniel Hiser, Jesse Brittain and sophomore Gabriel LeBeau are in the mix.
With his line (offensive and defensive) expected to be a strength, the difference here is Tommy Brittain hopes a bit more of a passing attack "so teams will not be able to put 11 men and two water boys in the box to stop our punishing running game."
"We won't have any superstars this season but we have a chance to be a very special team," he said.
Four sophomores could be starters alongside the five seniors and the large group of juniors, and nothing gradual will take place once the season starts: Yuma Catholic, Show Low and Northwest Christian are the first three opponents on the schedule.
Division V, Section IV
Coach: Tommy Brittain
Last year's record: 10-3, lost to Morenci in Division V semifinals
Returning starters: 5 on offense/ 5 on defense
Returning statistical leaders: QB Ben LeBeau (8-11, 101 yds.); RB Getamesay Wiese (51 carries, 298 yards, 2 TD; LB Ryan Whalen (86 tackles, INT, FF, FR); WR/DB Jack Otting-Crandall (13 rec., 258 yards; 55 tackles, 4 INT); Andrew Otting-Crandall (50 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, 4 FR)
Aug. 30 at Yuma Catholic; Sept. 6 vs. Show Low (at AZ Lutheran Academy); Sept. 13 vs. NW Christian (at Valley Christian HS); Sept. 20 at Paradise Honors (4 p.m.); Sept. 28 (Sat.) vs. Valley Christian (at AZ Lutheran Academy); Oct. 4 at Chandler Prep; Oct. 11 at Scottsdale Christian; Oct. 18 vs. Veritas Prep (at Valley Christian HS); Oct. 25 at Sequoia Charter (at Highland Jr. High); Nov. 1 vs. Scottsdale Prep (at Valley Christian HS)
Aug. 30 at Yuma Catholic: How much will a month's worth of practice have paid off? TP will find out real fast against another perennially elite Div. V school in an even tougher place to play, let alone win.
Sept. 13 vs. NW Christian (at Valley Christian HS): Before winning another state championship, NWC had a blemish on its 2012 record, courtesy of Tempe Prep in the final regular season game of the season after a couple big runs and a couple big plays on special teams. Even if TP is 0-3 after this week - a real possibility - the sky isn't falling on the season, so long as the players don't believe it is.
Sept. 28 vs. Valley Christian (at AZ Lutheran Academy): VC owned this matchup briefly until the past couple years as Tempe Prep ascended and the Trojans struggled. The new-look Trojans (along with Scottsdale Christian and Scottsdale Prep) should give TP some trouble, and the Knights might need to win at least five of their final seven games to see the postseason.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.