Dan Hinds has been known to wear bifocals on the sidelines so he can read his play sheet on Friday nights.

With the way the offense has been humming along this season for Desert Vista, it is pretty clear that the eye wear has him focused.

"My eyes went a few years ago, but I am an eagle eye from 4 feet or farther," he said.

The image of a coach wearing bifocals belies the competitiveness within Hinds as he prepares to take the Thunder (12-1) into Saturday's Division I state title game against Hamilton (13-0) at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Hinds, 48, has shown flashes of it this season - the dustup at the end of the Hamilton game and the celebration on the sidelines after the game-winning score against Basha in the semifinals - but he is usually pretty reserved.

There are tasks to be done, game plans to relay, and wins to secure so he usually portrays the man behind the glasses rather than the competitor who used to step in the boxing ring.

"He is a lot more intense than you see him," said Hinds' father, Bennie, before the game against Basha. "He is like his mother was. They keep things bottled in, but really they are going crazy inside. He is very competitive, but he doesn't show his emotions a lot."

Senior defensive back Chandler Kimball said he loves the fact that their coach is cool under pressure.

"He is one of those guys where you know the intensity is there," he said. "He is calm most of the time, but when he shows the other side it is cool, too."

The competitiveness started at a young age, as it usually does with younger siblings, when the elder Hinds had his sons, his brother David is four years older; join a boxing club, which also included Thunder assistant coach Andy Arredondo.

"It was just a natural thing for us to box because my dad was so involved in the Golden Gloves," said Hinds, who had two touchdown catches and an interception in the 1980 5A state title game to help McClintock to a 34-7 win over Trevor Browne. "We had a ring in our backyard. It probably gave us an edge when it came to other sports because you have to be aggressive and take hits.

"It gave us confidence to do other things."

Other things

Hinds had a personal struggle last season.

The Thunder returned to its level of expectation in 2010, a year after a dismal 2-8 season, but he probably couldn't enjoy it as much as he would have liked.

The family had some health issues that they'd prefer to keep the specifics unknown during last year's postseason.

It wore on him - trying to stay focus on the team and family at the same time - but both ended with positive outcomes.

The family situation has been resolved and the Thunder, while disappointed in the semifinals a year ago, came through this time around to make the state title game for the third time in school history.

"There was stuff going on that made it a rough week leading up to it," said Hinds, referring to last year's 41-17 loss to Desert Ridge. "We were prepared and ready to go, but for me personally it was a terribly difficult week."

It was something so personal and draining that it would have been too much for a coach whose staff was made up of just fellow coaches.

Instead Hinds could take care of his family knowing his staff, which includes Don Rezac who has been with Hinds from the start of his coaching career and was a coach of his at Northern Arizona, longtime friend Greg Battle, and Arredondo, who he has known since childhood, would be fine without him if need be.

"In a time of trouble it was very important to have staff that really cares about each other," he said. "If I had somewhere to be it was comforting to know I had a great coaching staff that would take care of everything."

The situation also made Hinds appreciate the end-of-game ritual where he is almost always greeted first by his daughter, Julia, followed by his wife of 12 years, Karen, and son, Luke.

"You know, win or lose, they are there to be with you and it is a great feeling to see them coming my way," he said. "I love getting that big hug after every game."

Staying strong

Hinds is in his 11th season running the Thunder program after being tabbed to head up the program after the Jim Rattay-era.

The program seems to be hitting its stride as the Thunder has made three semifinals and two championship game appearances since 2007.

"The job itself is a lot like life - there have been struggles, great moments and a lot of memories," said Hinds, who has an overall record of 80-47, and won regional titles in 2001, 2003 and 2006. "I've grown up with this job. The first few years were really rough, but we are getting there and I think we have things in place to get where we want go."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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