Dan Hinds admits it’s about as cheesy as a coach can be when it comes to the postseason.

Of course there is some truth to a cliché otherwise the message wouldn’t have stuck around for so long.

So taped on the window of the coaches’ office is the Division I bracket and instead of all 16 participants listed, the only two teams that can be seen are No. 6 Desert Vista and No. 11 Basha.

“That’s the bracket we gave the boys,” Hinds said. “As cheesy as that sounds we’ve always focused at one game at a time.

“We are going to have to beat all of those guys anyway. It is going to be a fun and challenging experience for those guys no matter what, but we have to focus on Basha to start otherwise the other games won’t materialize.”

The Thunder host the Bears tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round. It’s a different path than last year and Hinds’ message of focusing on one game at a time is especially poignant considering the draw the Thunder received in the Division I bracket.

Many consider the DV-Basha game the best one in DI with No. 4 Brophy vs. No. 13 Chandler as the other. Should the Thunder advance then chances are No. 3 Hamilton would be next.

Should the Thunder (8-2) make it through those two talented squads — something they did to win the state title last year — No. 2 Desert Ridge would be waiting in the semifinals assuming the Jaguars, who lost top running back JJ Husar to an ACL injury, don’t get upset.

It’s a tough task but clearly doable considering they beat Basha 42-32 and Hamilton 45-19 a year ago. It just would be nice in their minds if maybe they had a few warm-up games before taking on the Bears, and possibly Hamilton.

“Last year we had two pretty easy games to start,” Desert Vista quarterback Matt Young said. “This year if we do it there will be no disputing what we accomplished.”

Basha (7-3) will be a similar challenge to last week when the Thunder handled Chandler 23-6 by playing physical defense and sustained drives offensively to keep the Wolves’ skill players on the sidelines.

“We have some things we keyed on last year that we can do again this year,” said Thunder senior two-way linemen Dylan Fischer, who committed to Navy last Sunday. “We definitely have to keep moving the chains to keep our defense fresh.”

The Bears, who lost to Chandler, Desert Ridge and Hamilton during the season, have a different quarterback in junior Zach Werlinger (2,384 yards, 27 TDs, 10 INTS), but the main target again is Nate Phillips (64 catches, 1,076 yards, 10 TDs) while Rahjan Meriwether (1,084 yards rushing, 10 TDs) is the ground threat.

Basha, which is coached by Bernie Busken, is much like last year’s team when it defeated No. 2 Brophy in the quarterfinals. If the offense is clicking, then the Bears can beat just about anyone and that was evident when they led Hamilton at halftime before losing 31-24.

“They are always physical and have good athletes,” Thunder quarterback Matt Young said. “Our defense is playing good and they are going to have to play well again and our offense has to do what we do.

“We want to keep their offense off the field by maintaining drives and getting points at the end.”

It sounds like a winning formula and then, and only then, will Hinds reveal the rest of the bracket.

“We have to move the chains on offense and (defensive coordinator Greg) Battle will come up with another great defensive game plan,” Hinds said. “Our defense can step up like it did (against Chandler) we will have a good chance.

“I liked what I saw and I think it will carry over.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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