It’s more than 75 days before the first kickoff, but there’s plenty of preparation going on already.
The Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe football programs are in the midst of the 7-on-7 passing tournament season while working with strength and conditioning coaches to make sure the 2013 season falls in line with the previous seasons.
The Thunder is 32-7 (.821) over the last three years with winning at least one playoff game, making the semifinals twice and winning a state championship in 2011.
The Pride’s string of success extends one more year as the Pride is 40-11 since Norris Vaughan took over. The team has made three semifinals and finished up as state runner-up last season.
Mountain Pointe is expected to begin the season as one of the Division I’s top five teams, while the Thunder is a top 10 candidate.
If the success is going to continue, the Pride will do it against familiar opponents. Desert Vista, however, will play a mostly new schedule.
Mountain Pointe’s first four opponents, including Sollenberger Classic opponent Bishop Gorman (Nev.), are new as they host North (Aug. 30) before traveling to Cesar Chavez and Maryvale. After that, the Pride begins a difficult stretch that is similar to the one they had last year.
A year ago Mountain Pointe went 4-1 against top five teams in the regular season to propel the Pride to the top seed in the playoffs.
This year they travel to Chandler (Sept. 20), host Hamilton (Sept. 27), play at Desert Vista (Oct. 4), and host Brophy (Oct. 7) in successive weeks.
“That could be really tough,” Vaughan said. “Hamilton will probably be preseason No. 1, Chandler is always tough and they have some outstanding wide receivers, DV is like us — we always have the talent and size to be good — and Brophy is going to be talented and well-coached.
“The Ahwatukee Bowl is right in the middle of it. It’s an emotional week and so is the week before, almost. It’s going to be a tough stretch where we have to go 3-1, or 202 at the worst.”
The Pride, with only four home games, closes by hosting Corona, heal up with a bye in Week 9 and close out the year at Dobson.
The bye week means the game against Gorman, ranked No. 25 in the nation by MaxPreps, has to count in the power rankings and if nothing changes then Mountain Pointe will only have nine games in 2014.
“It’s unfortunate,” Vaughan said. “We were expecting to play 11 games, but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. The bye week comes at a bad time, but it is what it is.”
Desert Vista also begins the year with a signature game as the Labor Day weekend will be spent in the San Diego area as the Thunder face Mission Hills at Cathedral Catholic High in the Brothers in Arms showcase. It will also count as power point game.
The team will head out the day before and play on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 1:30 p.m. (according to DV’s website) and come back that night.
“We are treating it like a business trip and we are not sticking around for a couple of days,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said. “We are proud to be included in a special event like this one.”
The rest of the schedule is fairly new other than the Ahwatukee Bowl (Oct. 4), at Dobson (Oct. 18), at Corona del Sol (Oct. 24), and Brophy (Nov. 1).
The Thunder will play host to North (Sept. 6), travel to Boulder Creek (Sept. 13), host Marana Mountain View (Sept. 20), Vail Cienega (Sept. 27), and go on the road to face Division II power Peoria Centennial (Oct. 11).
“It’s invigorating because we are facing a lot of teams we haven’t seen before and, of course, they haven’t seen us,” Hinds said. “When it came to the freedom games we wanted to go after some new opponents.
“We won’t be able to pop in (game tape) and know what to expect before it starts playing like we do against teams we’ve played for years. It will be a challenge to come up with game plans for these games.”
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