The intensity remains the same, but there is a different feel to Desert Vista's spring football practice.

It's not as simple as turning around the program, going from 2-8 to 10-2, from one year to the next.

There is a trust between the coaches and players that might have been strained after the 2009 season.

"They are letting us govern ourselves more," junior linebacker Mike Arredondo said. "After such a terrible year, I think they felt we had to change something so they really had their hands in everything.

"This year they are letting us have fun and put more of the responsibility to be prepared on us."

Thunder coach Dan Hinds agreed that he has less to worry about with the contingent of players coming back next year.

"It's a good group and they showed that last year," he said. "We are missing some players because they are still competing (in spring sports), but it has been a great couple of weeks."

The drills are intense and the players are working hard, but at the same time there were smiles and a little bit of clowning around, in a good way, that is easier to get away with when coming off a semifinal berth rather than going winless in region play.

"The atmosphere is completely different," junior wide receiver Shaw Loomer said. "We are getting our work in but no one is questioning anything. When you come off a bad season there is a hint of doubt, but now we believe in each other."

There is an influx of expectations, confidence and respect across the entire program that has everyone looking forward to every step forward as the Thunder reaps the benefits of a 10-win season.

"We were a different team last year," junior defensive lineman Jeff Dielman said. "No one wants to go back to losing and we are thinking state championship. After making the semifinals that should be the next goal."

Hinds closed Monday's practice with a bit of a heart-to-heart with his soon-to-be senior class.

"This is the time to put into place ideas, goals and expectations," said Arredondo, who has received contact from Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and Boise State. "Last year at this time we were still finding ourselves, but now we know what we can accomplish.

"The reason we were good last season was because we started to make an attitude change last spring (session). If we hadn't then it would have been harder to get it turned around."

Hinds, preparing for his 10th season as head coach, said the difference has been noticeable and a welcomed change.

"No one wants to lose," he said. "We weren't happy about it and the players weren't. No one was. We made some changes that directly affected the way we approached spring and it paid off. This year has been a continuation of that and hopefully it allows us to continue to grow."

It's pretty clear the players are in the same frame of mind, something that is easy to do during spring.

"Right now everything is great," Loomer said. "It's carried over from the season and everyone has a great attitude. We aren't being tested right now, but when we are we'll be ready."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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