You can almost smell it like a monsoon in the distance. It might not be on the horizon just yet, but there is something in the air that lets us know football season is just about upon us.
Here are eight clear signs that the Friday Night Lights are about to be bright again.
1. The sound of a golf swing
Norris Vaughan loves to play golf. He moved to Arizona in order to play it more. Take a shot at it professionally even. But the Mountain Pointe coach rarely picks up a club during football season. The last two times I called him, he was golfing — once at the range, another in the clubhouse just before teeing off. He was getting in as much time on the links as he could because Vaughan knows his set of clubs are about to go dormant until December.
2. Trips with parents to big-box stores
Teams around the Valley are heading to Northern Arizona for football camp or they are already there like Desert Vista. Before they go, the players head to Wal-Mart or Target to load up on Gatorade, snacks, Power Bars and just about everything else they might want to consume in the week spent away from home.
3. Commitments come fast and furious
A lot of the highly-recruited football players prefer a quiet mind to play at their highest level. They don’t want outside pressures or looming questions. It leads to a handful of commitments before the season starts. Desert Vista defensive tackle Jalen Jelks took similar steps recently when the senior committed to Oregon. It gives the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder the freedom to focus on what’s right in front of him instead of what’s next. That can’t be good from anyone who lines up across from him.
4. Talk of team bonding
The trips up north, like the one Desert Vista took to Snowflake this week, is all about fostering the team dynamic. The players are worked hard during the day but mostly left alone in the late afternoon and evenings. That’s when some coaches, the Thunder’s Dan Hinds being among them, lets the leaders of the team take over and create the right tone for the season.
5. Transfer news
In recent days, Chaparral got a little stronger while Hamilton took a hit with the news of wide receiver Izzy Simpson and his transfer to the Firebirds’ program after his family moved to Scottsdale. If you hadn’t heard of T.J. Gray while he played at Coolidge, you certainly have now after it was alleged — by Coolidge coach Cayle Ferguson — he was recruited to Hamilton. After it blew up, Gray eventually landed at Basha. Now, there is talk he is with his dad in their home state of Mississippi and he is going to stay there this season.
6. Band practice
Come Week 1 that half-time routine has to be down pat. This special part of the Friday night atmosphere doesn’t happen overnight. This group is working hard to make sure they don’t lay an egg when the season gets under way. Area neighborhoods are filled with rousing renditions of the school’s fight song.
7. Vacation requests are being made
It’s more prominent than ever in 2013 as several local football teams are heading out of state this season. Coaches and athletic directors looked elsewhere after frustration grew with the inability to find enough in-state opponents under the new freedom scheduling format. Mountain Pointe families will be heading to Las Vegas for the Aug. 23 game against Bishop Gorman, while Desert Vista and its fans head to San Diego over Labor Day weekend to take on Mission Hills.
8. Mandatory Monday
Mountain Pointe’s early start to the season gives them a jump on most of the state, as the Pride is the only Division I team (out of 16) to open up in Week 0. They begin four weeks of practice on Monday. They get a chance to work on things, find a rhythm, and get ready for a game against Gorman that is going to get national attention. Desert Vista doesn’t start camp until Aug. 5, but need to answer a few more questions — mainly who is going to get the nod at quarterback — so the Thunder’s camp might have a higher sense of urgency to it.
So there are the very keen clues that the football season is within reach. Make no mistake the countdown has begun. And just like a monsoon it will wreak havoc and be gone before we know it.
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.