The last two sessions of spring football have led to two great rides during the regular seasons.
Desert Vista won its first state title since 1998 after a large and fully committed group of juniors set the tone in the spring that bled into a 13-1 campaign.
Mountain Pointe used last year’s spring ball to rid itself of a negative vibe forged the year before and developed a winning attitude that finally matched the talent level to earn the Pride’s first-ever state champion game berth before finishing as the state runner-up.
So what’s next?
The outcome won’t be known for months but the process starts Monday when spring gets underway in Arizona.
“I think a lot of kids are excited to get started,” Pride coach Norris Vaughan said. “There’s the anticipation of playing in the Sollenberger (Aug. 23) and facing a great team like Bishop Gorman has everyone ready to go.”
The Thunder have the motivation of a big game too to start the season as they head to San Diego to take on Mission Hills on the Brother in Arms over Labor Day weekend.
The idea of opening in a highly visible game can only get a team so far. Those games are four months away while spring ball is here and now.
For the first time in Vaughan’s tenure at Mountain Pointe, he will have a quarterback – Antonio Hinojosa - starting for a second year. Despite Hamilton proving otherwise (10 different quarterbacks the last 10 years), it is very important for a team to have continuity at the most vital position on the field.
“It’s huge for us,” Vaughan said. “He had a great year and should only get better. He is getting some looks but if he was 6-foot-3 instead of 5-10 he’d be discussed as one of the state’s top quarterback prospects.”
Hinojosa, who threw for 2,255 yards with 31 touchdowns, will get a chance to work in front of some of the nation’s top programs as they come to visit teammates Jalen Brown and Natrell Curtis, both of whom have garnered the attention of recruiters from all of the top football powers.
For Vaughan the next couple of weeks is about finding out about the players coming up from junior varsity and the new faces who enrolled in the school since the end of last season like defensive back Dominique Fenstermacher, who came over from Marcos de Niza.
“We are always looking to add something new,” Vaughan said. “We try to develop a depth chart of at least two deep. We hope to use fewer players both ways and we will see if we can get to that point. Other than that we want to make sure they understand what they have to do for the summer.”
Desert Vista, coming off a 9-3 season including a playoff win, enters spring camp without a quarterback in place for the first time in some time.
There are some good candidates, including senior Cade Van Raaphorst and Brendon Smith, who came over from Desert Ridge, and by no means are there any expectations to have a starter step up the next three weeks.
“It’s exciting and uneasy at the same time,” Hinds said. “It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. We will take our time with it. There is no real reason to do it off the bat. We have the summer and once camp (before the season) starts we will start narrowing it down.”
The Thunder have lost a ton of leadership and talent the last two years. The program is in a bit of a transition, but don’t expect a step back.
“When you have a great senior class like we’ve had you don’t necessarily notice the leadership of the juniors, but I can already tell there are bunch of great leaders,” Hinds said. “They have taken over the weight room. These guys are ready to step into bigger roles and we will see what the next three weeks tells us about who are.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.