Football scrimmages are a last chance to evaluate things before the initial game.
Mike Fell came out of last week’s practice game looking at himself just as much as any of his Mountain View players.
“We had a good wakeup call in the scrimmage,” Fell said of the practice game last week against Desert Ridge. “The offseason and camp seemed to drag on, and I realized I had gotten sloppy and had some bad coaching habits.
“We got back after it since then. We’ve improved a lot and we’ll be ready to go.”
The Toros open the year with a road trip to Surprise to take on Valley Vista on Thursday. The game will be broadcasted on Cox 7 and it’s a chance for Mountain View to show what is to come in year two under Fell’s command.
“If you can’t get ready to play on TV for the first game of the season then you have some issues,” Fell said. “We will be ready to go.”
And that includes senior running back Dean Yamada, who is healthy after breaking his foot during the offseason.
“He has been out there and working hard,” Fell said. “He overcompensated for the foot and the knee flared up, but everyone is healthy. That’s what we wanted heading into the season.”
The second year of a coaching stop comes with a better understanding of everything that goes on within the program. The Toros opened last year with a 43-21 win over Valley Vista on the way to a 3-0 start.
Another fast start could very well be in the offing.
“We are hoping so,” Fell said. “There is no learning curve. Everything comes a little easier to everyone.”
The Jaguars open the season Friday with a trip to Phoenix College to take on Brophy, which started the year with a 47-7 loss against Pinnacle in the Sollenberger Classic in Flagstaff.
Desert Ridge, which lost budding star Jason Harris due to a transfer to Higley, leads the series 3-2 since 2004 with the last meeting coming in 2015 and Brophy winning the playoff match up in 2014.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Purnell is expected to show some growth after playing in six games as a freshman. He completed 57 percent of his passes for 562 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions in six games.
The Pete Wahlheim era at Dobson begins with a trip south against Rincon, which opened the year with a 58-0 loss to Pueblo, on Friday.
Whatever preconceived notions Wahlheim had about the Dobson program, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2007, has changed after a few months on the job.
“As I came in and started to work with these kids I think my outlook has changed dramatically,” he said. “I look out on the field and see some talent out there and kids that want to win some football games.”
He signaled out Jarred Haggard, Marco Salas and Michael Valdes for their leadership skills.
“This team has a desire to get better each day,” Wahlheim said. “They are taking the coaching tips and applying them to grow not only as players, but also as men.”
The Jackrabbits defense held up well in the season opening loss to Mesquite despite the 32-6 loss.
The defense, which had four sacks and two interceptions, was done in by the special teams – mainly the punt team, which failed to get off a punt three different times.
“They played amazing,” Mesa coach Kap Sikahema said. “They really did, but they were put in a bad position a lot.”
Mesa travels to Desert Mountain this week. The Wolves had an impressive 28-27 win over Chaparral last week.
The Mountain Lions have a bye week after opening the year with a 42-14 loss to Chandler. Next up is Hamilton, a team in transition, but still formidable.
“Monday (of this week) is a new day,” Red Mountain coach Mike Peterson said after the game. “We made some mistakes that can’t happen. We did some good things, but not enough. We have some time to straighten things out.”
One thing the Mountain Lions found was a quarterback in Cannon Griner, who took over the position after it was decided Lance Lawson would have a more defined role at running back and slot receiver and Austin Duffy decided to concentrate on baseball.
Griner is an athlete whose main sport is basketball. He played wide receiver and linebacker last year.
“He found a good rhythm,” Peterson said. “He’s only going to get better with time.”
The Coyotes host Highland on Friday with both teams opening the year with a win.
Junior running back Aaron Wood will be the featured back this year, and showed a little bit of what he could do in the win over Westwood.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder had 16 carries for 82 yards with two scores along with two catches for 10 yards.
“He is really going to breakout,” Skyline coach Angelo Paffumi said prior to the season. “He is going to get a lot of work to show what he can do.”
The Warriors are on the road again this week as they travel to Copper Canyon, a team playing its first game, in Glendale.
There is a certain advantage to having a game completed compared to a team playing its first game.
Westwood, which won last year’s meeting with Copper Canyon 29-22, showed a strong running game in the loss to Skyline.
“We did some really good things, but you can’t turn the ball over that much against a good team,” Warriors coach Kyle Ide said. “We weren’t prepared to go both ways with some of our guys, and we got tired. There was the emotion of the first game, and everyone being hyped up, to deal with, too. We won’t have that this week.”
Ethan Neely had seven carries for 74 yards and Carter Layton had nine attempts for 60 yards. Overall, the team had 39 carries for 215 yards with three runs of 18 yards or more.
Layton did his damage from the quarterback position and the zone read package. The game plan going in was to use multiple quarterbacks with Tanner Hornsby and Jeremiah Stayner also getting time.
Hornsby, who had three catches including a touchdown in the opener, ended up staying at wide receiver and Stayner came in when Layton got banged up. This week Layton is back healthy but Hornsby was hurt in practice and will be out four to six weeks.
“We have some depth at quarterback but losing Tanner for a while hurts,” Ide said. “We will adjust and play some different guys.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.