Finding the right combination doesn’t always happen on the first try.
Rumor has it before chicken noodle soup became one of the all-time great comfort foods, liver noodle soup didn’t quite hit the spot.
OK, not really, but the point is made.
Sometimes the right ingredients come together to form a classic combination.
While the Desert Vista linebacker unit is hardly a classic at the point, it appears after several tweaks the Thunder has a combo much closer to chicken soup rather than liver.
Not sure if Thunder coach Dan Hinds likes chicken soup or not, but he is starting to get that warm feeling about his linebackers that comes with a comfort meal.
“They really turned that corner,” Hinds said. “This is when we started to take off last year and if these guys keep it up, we could have one nice run.”
At the beginning of the year, the one glaring unknown was the linebackers simply because the previous group of starters moved on due to graduation.
There were plenty of quality players who could get the job done, as evident by the rotation still going on, but the starting lineup seems to be finally set.
Senior Aaron Green has taken over at middle linebacker with junior Matt Trujillo (will) and senior Logan Fetters (strong) on the outside for the Thunder (4-1) when they host Saguaro (4-1) on Friday night.
Senior Zach Gonzalez was the starter at MLB to start the year, and still sees the field, but his offensive responsibilities at fullback have become more valuable, while seniors Connor Cox, Anthony Truelove and Aaron Modi are valuable parts of the rotation.
“I’ve seen the progression we needed,” Hinds said. “I think we have the right combination right now. Trujillo, for a young guy, he is really coming around. Green has really grabbed a hold of his role after we decided that Gonzo needed some rest.”
The players said the fact that they were all first-time starters for the most part was a rallying point for them.
“We are getting comfortable with our position and the coaches put us in the right spot,” Trujillo said. “We definitely play for each other and we are focused on the right things. We are always looking after each other.”
They’ll be tested this week against an explosive Saguaro offense that averages 46.6 points a game. Yes, the Sabercats are a Division III and their opponents are not DI caliber, but this team has some of the top offensive threats in the state.
“They can put some points up in a hurry,” Hinds said. “They don’t have (Arizona State freshman) DJ Foster anymore, but it hasn’t seemed to slow them down at all.”
Slowing down Saguaro falls on the defensive unit as a whole, but now that the linebackers are starting to reach a level of play that is closer to equaling the defensive line and backfield, the Thunder has a better chance of winning this contest that came down to a last-second field goal.
The spread offense, which is what Saguaro runs, is about creating mismatches and maybe a few weeks ago when the Thunder linebackers were in influx and less entrenched in their roles it could pose a problem.
Instead, the unit is ready to breakout with a signature game to solidify the fact they’ve been getting better throughout the season.
“We’ve kind of settled in and found ourselves,” said Green, who led the team in tackles through four games. “They run the spread and look really fast on film. We have to be ready for that, and we will be.”
Fetters might be the most focused after he missed the first two games because an off-the-field incident forced him to be suspended for the first two games.
“I made a huge mistake over the summer and it hurt the team because I couldn’t start,” Fetters said. “I turned it into a learning experience and now I am there for my team.”
It’s a sign of maturity, much like the unit as a whole. They began the year learning on the job and now the lessons have allowed them to become a little more dependable each week.
“They are doing what’s necessary for us to get where we need to go,” Hinds said. “Their level of performance is starting to reach the potential that has always been there.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.