When the new two-year block alignment was announced in October of 2008, all eyes focused on the Fiesta Region and the quality of the football programs involved in the six-team league.

It was considered a meat-grinder of a schedule with each team beating on each until the bitter end.

The predictions came true as three of the four teams in the Class 5A Division I semifinals ended up coming from the Fiesta Region while many of the regular season's top games came courtesy of the Fiesta battles.

No team felt the strength of the region more than Desert Vista.

The Thunder went winless, while being outscored 172-80 in those five contests.

Starting tonight Desert Vista (2-1), with a slew of young and talented players, is about to embark on that onslaught of tough games again when the Thunder travel to Chandler Hamilton for the 7 p.m. kickoff.

The nationally-ranked Huskies (5-0) are the two-time defending state champions and ranked No. 1 in the state by every publication, website or blog.

"Everyone knows about Hamilton and what a great team they are," senior wide receiver/defensive back Mike Ingrassia said. "We know we have to play our best game of the season."

Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said there was a simple football idiom that was reinforced during last season's inaugural Fiesta run.

"We learned that when you play good teams you can't make a lot of mistakes," Hinds said. "We'd be hanging in and a few mistakes would kill us. We have to cut out all of the mental mistakes and play as mistake-free as possible."

While that wasn't the case last week in the 20-17 loss to Mountain Pointe, the Thunder held their own against a team that many thought would hammer Desert Vista.

There were many positives to be taken out of the defeat.

"We had a lot of people step up and play well," Ingrassia said. "From what I was hearing and reading, I don't think a lot of people thought we were going to be in that game. We were there to the end.

"Our coaches don't condone losing or taking moral victories, but we got a lot of positives out of the game and we are more talented than we even thought we were."

The positive reinforcement couldn't have come at a better time.

Hamilton hasn't lost a region game since Oct. 22, 2004, when the Huskies were upset by Gilbert Highland, 37-15, and bring a 25-game region win streak into the contest.

"Everyone knows Hamilton is Hamilton and they have been running Arizona football the last few years," said Ingrassia, who leads the team in rushing and receiving. "We feel good going into the game and we know it is an opponent that needs to be respected. We have to prepare accordingly.

"They have everyone gunning for them. If you can run with these guys you can run with anyone. They have everything to lose and no one expects us to win so we can go at them with everything we have."

The one thing the team cannot do is be intimidated. There is a certain aura surrounding a program like Hamilton that a young player can get sucked into, but the coaching staff began the week by squashing that thought process.

"You never know what younger players are thinking, but as coaches it is our job to not allow those thoughts to occur," Hinds said. "We can't get caught up in that. We had discussions from the very start of the week that on any given night anyone can win."

Senior offensive center Roman Villa, a first-year varsity starter, isn't worried about the young players coming out flat against the Huskies, who have won 30 straight games.

"The young players are going to step up and do their end," he said. "I am not worried about their ability to make plays. We showed last week (against Mountain Pointe) that we are a good team capable of playing with anyone."

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