Clouds covered the sky, but temperatures were still more than 100 degrees with the dense humidity adding additional drips of sweats.
The Desert Vista football team was running a strength workout, pushing limits as the players prepared to head to camp in Snowflake next week, the bitter memory of a losing season in the back of everyone’s mind.
Senior center Andrew McNair said he was happy with the way the team looked so far.
“It’s been a really good offseason,” McNair said. “From an offensive line standpoint, we have a good bond right now, and we will continue to develop that bond as we head up the hill.”
Senior running back T.J. Roberts echoed the lineman’s enthusiasm, adding that the team has the right mindset.
“We never have to be told to do things; we go out and do what we have to every day,” said Roberts.
The Thunder are coming off a 4-6 record in 2013 with a similar schedule for the 2014 season. Head coach Dan Hinds is familiar with the territory he is in.
“When things don’t go as well as you plan them to go, you take a really good look at yourself, and that’s what we did,” Hinds said. “This offseason, we’ve done some things different and have had a much more productive offseason than last year.”
As Hinds and the team head up north, their goal is to continue to find where they can be successful and leave behind the shortcomings of the previous season.
Roberts said confidence on both sides of the ball is a must, as is physicality. McNair said that those two components have a common starting point.
“We have to create a team bond,” said McNair. “We’re not the biggest team, so having that trust will really help us.”
The center is one of the players who has shown himself to be a leader, Hinds said, and he expects the rest to show themselves at camp.
“There are a few seniors we’re waiting for to step up and fill those roles. And we even expect some of the juniors to as well,” said Hinds.
“In the past, the football teams that have been successful have had a good mix of juniors and seniors. They haven’t just been fully dominated by seniors.”
Hinds also said there would be a few sophomores that would see playing time this season and that he expects them to do well.
“The few sophomores that will play have proved themselves,” said Hinds, who followed up Desert Vista’s last losing season (2009) with 10 wins the following year. “They’ve come to every practice and every workout. I think they’ve gained the respect of the seniors.
“The role they’ll have on our team is they come in and fill a role. As a head coach, I don’t put a lot of pressure on them, they already have enough on them. I want the sophomores to lead themselves and do what we ask them to do.”
For one week, the team will be running three practices per day, with the goal of being able to execute everything they’ve been working on since January. Hinds said discipline is the first step in executing the game plan.
“You’ll get good teams that come out that first game and lose because lack of discipline,” said Hinds. “We can’t be jumping offside or getting caught with false starts because that adds up. We need to instill in our boys not to make those kinds of mental mistakes.”
The coach is confident his players are putting things in place for a good season by working hard in the offseason, and camp will be like the final piece to the puzzle.
“I think our boys have put themselves in a great position to be successful,” Hinds said.
Desert Vista’s first game will be at home against Basha on Aug. 29. McNair’s thoughts on the matchup were concise.
“We’ll be ready when we come down the hill,” McNair said.
• Will Argeros is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.