The loss to Mountain Pointe last season wasn't just a beat down in a rivalry game for Desert Vista.
It was a sign of things to come.
Rewind to the first half when Desert Vista had leads of 12-0 and 18-7. All the Thunder had to do was keep pace or put the game away with another score or two and all would be right.
The starting quarterback was knocked out and the defense became a bunch of matadors.
Mountain Pointe cruised to a 34-18 win to set the tone for both programs.
"That was a tough game to lose like that early in the season against our rival," senior wide receiver/safety Mike Ingrassia said. "We walked off the field knowing had we made a play here or stop there it might have been different."
Desert Vista finished with a 2-8 record that included several more second-half letdowns. If the Thunder finishes off any one of those games, chances are they would have made the playoffs last season.
"It would have been nice to get into the playoffs just to keep the tradition going and gain that much more experience," Ingrassia said. "But the way it worked out, it is making us stronger this year.
"We took all of that frustration into the offseason and it pushed us."
Many in the Desert Vista program, which hosts Tucson to open the 2010 season tonight, believe it has rid itself of some poor attitudes that influenced a portion of last season and this year's core group of players who come from winning programs that won't let second-half advantages become wasted opportunities.
"We are going to do the little things in the third and fourth quarter to win those games," Desert Vista junior quarterback Hunter Rodriguez said. "That is something that has to change right away."
The Desert Vista roster began camp with 13 seniors and not all of them are going to be major contributors. There will be an infusion of young talent on both sides of the ball, but that doesn't mean there is a shortcoming of leaders.
Junior running back/linebacker Mike Arredondo and senior tight end/defensive end Sean Coffinger, along with Ingrassia, will make sure there are no repeats of last season's demise.
"Those guys bring the right attitude every day," Desert Vista head coach Dan Hinds said earlier in camp. "If something needs to be said, if something needs to be done, I have no doubt it will be taken care of."
Hinds enters his 10th season coming off his most difficult season. He has his detractors out there who seem to forget that the Thunder played for the Class 5A Division I title just three short seasons ago.
Desert Vista entered the postseason as the 11th seed in 2007 and proceeded to knock off the sixth, third and second seed before falling to Phoenix Brophy, the fourth seed, in the championship game.
It's not to say Desert Vista is on the way back to University of Phoenix Stadium, but Hinds and his staff have shown the ability to get the talent in all of the right places to come together.
"The coaching staff is great," Ingrassia said. "We know they are going to have us prepared and in position to win. It is up to us to get it done."
The process of flushing all of that negativity away and building anew starts with the Badgers coming to town.
"We were put in the Fiesta Region for a reason," Ingrassia said. "We know we belong. We didn't play like it last year, but this is a new year and we are ready to surprise some people."