Next up on our season preview is the 3 time defending 2A champion, Thatcher Eagles. The Eagles graduated 17 seniors off of a perfect 14-0 team. That is a large number to replace in a rural school but when you build it, they will come. Thatcher lists 19 seniors on this year’s roster.
There are a couple of thoughts that I have been hearing around the state about this year’s team. Both are accurate and hard to argue. The first is that there is no way this year’s team will be as good as last year’s team. Luckily for the 2019/2020 Eagles squad they don’t have to be better than last year’s team. They only have to be better than the team they play each week. There is nothing wrong with winning a game 28-21 instead of 60-6, both still count as wins.
The 2nd is that this team practiced against the best team in 2A since they were freshman. Again a true statement. Like many small rural schools, the JV and Varsity practice against each other. The best way to get better is to practice against better players. Whichever theory you buy into you are probably right and both are good signs for this Eagle squad.
Offensively the Eagles will rely on Senior Running backs Bretton Dodge and Gavin Bryce in Don Conrad’s Veer offense. They have huge shoes to fill as the Eagles graduated their top 4 rushers that amassed 2500 yards and 46 rushing TD’s.
They will turn to Jr. QB Mark Wren under center. Wren piloted the JV team to an undefeated season last year. According to the coaching staff, Wren has done a great job of reading the Veer since camp this year and gets the ball to right back at the right time. He will have only one Offensive Line starter back, Greyson Shreck. O-Line Coach Danny Battraw will have a whole stable of guys to get ready before game one.
On the defensive side of the football, Sr. Defensive End Collin Thompson will be a handful for opposing quarterbacks this year. Thompson attended several camps and combines this summer and was ranked in the top #100 football players in Arizona. Opposite Thompson will be 6’4′ Spencer Stevens who will be almost impossible to throw over or around. Bryce will also contribute in the linebacker corps for the Eagles along with Brik Skousen. Dodge and newcomer Jason Carrasco will be penciled in at the safeties spot.
When you win 3 straight state championship you don’t get to have any off weeks. Head Coach Ramon Morales said, “We have a tough schedule this year and we will have our hands full each and every week. To be successful, we will have to take it one week at a time, with the understanding that Friday night starts with Monday practice.” Throw in the fact the Eagles have only 4 home games this year and that makes the schedule that much harder.
That isn’t Morales’ biggest concern, though. “We have several kids who got playing time last year but very few starters. We are hoping they are ready for the challenge,” said Morales. They will have to be ready right out of the gate as the Eagles head to up the hill to take on 2A Black foe, Morenci.
August 23rd @ Morenci
August 30th vs American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek
September 6th @ Show Low
September 13th vs Safford
September 20th @ Benson
September 27th @ Santa Cruz
October 4th @ Pima
October 11th BYE
October 18th vs St. Johns
October 25th vs. Round Valley
November 1st @ Santa Rita