After fending off a furious comeback by Palm Springs High in its season opener last Friday, Desert Vista High’s football program now prepares for a road trip out West to California.
It’s the second year in a row Desert Vista will travel to California after taking on Palm Springs at home the week before. Last season, the Thunder won convincingly over the Indians before they went on to defeat Carlsbad.
This season, Desert Vista will take on Notre Dame High School from Sherman Oaks, Calif. The game will be played at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego as part of the 2019 Honor Bowl.
“We’ve already got a pretty good game plan on Notre Dame,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said after his team’s victory over Palm Springs. “We will take a look at what they did tonight and just make any adjustments we need to make.
“We need to fix some mental mistakes and then we will go from there.”
Desert Vista jumped on Palm Springs early, scoring 37 first-half points. But the Thunder seemed to let their guard down in the second half, allowing the Indians to trim the lead to just 3 points in the fourth quarter.
Hinds believes the heat may have taken a toll on his team’s ability to keep their foot on the gas in the waning moments of the game.
Despite playing in San Diego, where the forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 70s on Saturday, Hinds acknowledged that proper hydration was key to avoid cramps and allow the team to play at a consistent pace.
“We had a lot of guys cramping up,” Hinds said. “The heat played a little factor and we learned tonight that we need to hydrate a little better.”
Desert Vista’s offense fired on all cylinders against Palm Springs to start the game. Senior quarterback Parker Navarro got into a consistent rhythm with his wideouts, while Tyson and Devon Grubbs contributed all over the field.
The Thunder will look for the same type of production from its key contributors against a Notre Dame team that was just 4 points shy of advancing to the California Division II championship game last season.
The Knights return a plethora of talent from last year’s team. Junior quarterback Cooper Meek, who threw for 1,570 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore last season, returns under center to lead Notre Dame’s offense. Senior W.M. Johnson and junior Anthony Spearman III will man the backfield, while senior Andre Bray figures to become one of the top wideouts this season.
Notre Dame also returns most of its starting defense from a year ago, including junior linebacker Jacob Moore, who led the team with 137 total tackles as a sophomore.
“We have to take a look at our blocking and gap assignments,” Tyson Grubbs said. “We also need to look at our assignments on defense. We just need to fix all of our mistakes.”
Desert Vista is one of two teams from Arizona that will take part in the 2019 Honor Bowl, as Saguaro High School will also play in the showcase event against the host school, Cathedral Catholic.
The Honor Bowl showcase is sponsored by The Honor Group, a non-profit organization founded in 2010 by Mark Soto. Soto coached prep football for 18 years and has two sons that have served a combined 31 months in the Army and Marines.
According to its website, The Honor Group’ mission is to educate students, coaches and the surrounding communities about the needs of military veterans.
Soto was asked to take over the Battle at the Capital in 2010. Since then, the series of games has changed names several times. In 2015, it was officially named the Honor Bowl and has flourished ever since.
Desert Vista will take on Notre Dame on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif. To stay up to date on all the action from San Diego, follow @ZachAlvira and @VarsityXtra on Twitter.
AFN contributor Chris Fahrendorf contributed to this report.