The Desert Vista defense was instantly put on alert.

The offense’s opening drive to begin the season ended soon thereafter because of a turnover and the sudden change put the defensive unit on the field with very little green between them and the end zone.

The Thunder defense got a turnover of its own and the tone was set.

The Desert Vista offense and special teams put the defense in enviable positions all game long and just about every time the unit came through in a 13-0 lost that just as easily could have been 31-0 had the defense not shown a backbone.

“The defense did a great job,” Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said after the game. “If they play like that all year we are going to be fine because we are going to fix the offense.”

And there is nothing like saving the offense to do some good for the ego.

“We kept getting more and more self esteem,” senior defensive end Anthony Reaves said. “Every time we came up with a stop in tough situations we kept getting more confidence.”

Considering the unit began the year with nearly all new starters, with defensive end Jalen Jelks and outside linebacker Matt Trujillo getting the most time last year, getting off to a good start was vital.

“Most of us have played with each other as freshmen and on JV so we had confidence in each other,” Trujillo said. “That game just showed how good we could be.”

And if that wasn’t enough there was Trujillo laying down the law.

“He kept yelling, ‘They’re not scoring on my defense. They’re not scoring on my defense,’” Reaves said. “He was going crazy. The whole huddle was hyped up and we kept feeding into it.”

And it continued last week when they overmatched North as the first team didn’t allow a score in a 60-6 win.

“We have team goals (for yards allowed, points allowed, etc.) and we’re doing good,” safety Bobby Delgado said. “We got it going early because the offense didn’t have a good game and we had to keep coming through in tough situations. We kept getting the job done and we built off it.”

The challenges will become more difficult for the Thunder (1-1) in the weeks to come, including Thursday night’s game at Boulder Creek (0-2), and with Marana Mountain View, Cienega and Mountain Pointe and Centennial coming up.

“There are some good offenses (on the schedule) but we are going to get better each week,” Delgado said. “We can be just as good as the (last two years). We don’t know how good we can be but we are always trying to get better.”

It might be tough considering the level of play the Thunder has shown in the early going so far but possible as players like cornerback Johnnie Johnson, cornerback Will Barfield Jr., middle linebacker Cullen Van Gosen, and safety Jason King settle into their roles even more each week.

“I know we can play even better,” said Trujillo, who leads the team with 15 tackles. “You always can. We can communicate better, make better decisions, and get more turnovers. That’s what we need to do.”

The team’s identity was still being determined entering its third week, but it is clear the backbone is the defense.

“We had to come out fighting from the start,” Trujillo said. “We haven’t stopped since.”

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

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