It starts with the postgame handshake and followed up by the team huddle near one of the end zones after a loss on a Friday night.

Everyone deals with defeat differently and the way it is processed can say a lot about an individual.

"You can tell it hits some harder than others," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. "It has a lot to do with their upbringing. For some it is not that big of a deal, but around here it doesn't sit very well."

Some are so disturbed they get a glossed look in their eyes and barely hear what anyone tells them afterward whether it be the coach's rant of displeasure, the bus ride back when a teammate is talking about certain plays or when Dad is complaining about a referee's call.

They all can have their say, but the true tell is what goes through a player's mind that first moment where all that is left is their own thoughts.

It might happen while sitting at their locker as they are taking off their pads or during the ride home from the school. Or maybe it doesn't really hit them until their aching body hits the rack.

"I'd lie there thinking, ‘What are we going to do to turn this around,' " Desert Vista senior Sean Coffinger said. "I hated it. I'd come from winning programs and losing just wears on you."

Desert Vista had a difficult 2009 season as the Thunder finished 2-8 and ended the season with five straight defeats.

The season wasn't a reflection of talent as much as several key factors that led to the miserable year:

• It was the first year in the state's toughest region (Fiesta).

• Several second-half leads evaporated that could have easily turned into wins if not for a play or two.

• Coffinger was forced into duty at quarterback when Cody Sokol missed some time.

• Key members of the senior class might not have had the best attitude when it came with dealing with adversity.

The final bullet point is the one that junior linebacker/tailback Mike Arredondo had the hardest time understanding.

"Losing every week was really hard, especially because I was one of the younger kids on the team and some of the seniors didn't really seem to care," Arredondo said. "It just killed me inside, but I didn't want to say anything since (he was just a sophomore).

"On the field everyone cared, but afterward they just let it slide off their backs. I can't do that. It sticks with me for a long time."

Like Coffinger, Arredondo did a lot of thinking about the coming season(s) when dealing with last year's debacle.

"There was a lot of recollection of the season and trying to figure out what I could do to make sure it didn't happen again," Arredondo said. "We worked all offseason with that as the driving force."

There are some things these two leaders will be unable to change in 2010 - the Fiesta Region is still going to be a beast - but developing more heart in each and every game tops the list.

"After every loss we knew we had to change this," said Coffinger, who moves back to tight end and defensive end. "There was no leadership to take that over. We all have that feeling now and we had to make a change."

It started in offseason workouts, continued in the team's trip to the White Mountains for camp before the start of the season and will be completely instilled by the time the Thunder lines up against Tucson at home on Aug. 27.

"We are going to turn it around very quickly," Arrendondo said. "We are young, but we have a lot of talent. For the most part we are not on anyone's mind right now and they are looking past us on the schedule. That will change as the weeks go by."

(2) comments

townnews-cmasters Staff

Great story!


Too many years since Coach Jim Rattay and Coach Jeff Decker ran the football program to atate and national greatness. DVHS won championships every year, the Thunder led TV sports broadcasst every Friday night, the team was ranked 4th in the whole USA, and Hamilton was just another team. With two boys there it was absolutely wonderful then.

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