For the second straight season, the Desert Vista football program gets a jump on most of the state.

The Thunder began its first official week of practice on Monday in order to prepare for a game in Week ‘0’ in the Sollenberger Classic on Aug. 18, while the rest of Division I have to hold off for practice until Monday, July 30 before Week 1 arrives on Aug. 24.

“We don’t mind it,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. “We will go with the same approach. There is no reason to change.”

That is clear.

After winning a state title in 2011 it wouldn’t be surprising if someone on the coaching staff — there is always at least one superstitious guy — has some sort of undergarment he will wear simply because it is what he wore when Desert Vista went on its winning streak.

So keeping the preseason approach the same is pretty much set in stone.

With that said there is a bit of a difference as the team spent this week in Eagar, Ariz., wearing helmets for the first time, whereas last year the Thunder spent the week before the first allowable practice in Winslow, Ariz.

“We can use helmets and we need to get these guys ready because the game will be here before we know it,” Hinds said. “We are proud to be selected for the game and we want to represent Arizona well.”

Last year, the Thunder opened earlier than just about everyone else out of desperation.

Desert Vista played Maryvale to start the season after being unable to find an agreeable partner for its third “freedom” game. Since Maryvale already had a 10-game schedule, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) had to approve the 11th game.

Forced arrangements usually don’t work well and this was no different as the Thunder had a pseudo walk-through scrimmage in a 63-0 win over the Panthers.

A little more will be required this time around.

Desert Vista was selected to participate in the Sollenberger Classic and faces Nevada’s Palo Verde, which has gone 59-6 since 2007, at University of Phoenix Stadium.

While the Thunder will be under the big lights of a NFL Stadium on that Saturday, the rest of Arizona (other than Lakeside Blue Ridge, which is also playing in the Sollenberger) is still a week away from starting the season.

Mountain Pointe, which spent some time in Eagar for team camp this week, has been ready to shake off last year’s letdown about the same time they walked off Phoenix College’s field after losing 28-3 to Brophy in the first round of the postseason.

The Pride had some great senior leaders last year, but something was off all season long. Injuries played a part, athletes out of position didn’t help, either, but chemistry was never good.

The good thing to come out of the 6-5, up-and-down season is the returning players have appeared to learn from it as they head into their first practice on Monday.

“We’ve had a great summer,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said last week. “I like the way this team works and their attitude. It might be the best we’ve had at Mountain Pointe.”

At the time Vaughan wasn’t sure if the team was going to Eagar for sure. Another school backed out at the last second so the team could get a discount in order to fill the space.

He took plenty of his Georgia teams to out-of-the-area camps, but this was his first trip to Eagar. Vaughan is hardly a touchy-feely type of coach, but he thought this team would do well in such an atmosphere.

“We are close to getting it started and first game is about a month away,” he said. “I want to see what all of this summer work means once we start getting after it.”

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

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