SAN TAN VALLEY - Over the noise of a train that runs behind Poston Butte High School’s football fields, head coach Dain Thompson can be heard reciting a mantra to his team: “let’s be awesome.”
By most measures, the Poston Butte Broncos were awesome last season. Despite the cloud of a global pandemic that loomed over their season, they posted the best record in program history (6-2), won the 4A Black Canyon region and earned a playoff berth.
Losing several key players, including running back Zion Burns, who is slated to play for the University of Nevada this season, and quarterback Gavin Lloyd, could cause concern. Instead, there is a sense of assuredness among the Broncos that those who remain can remedy the disappointment of last season’s first round playoff exit.
Specifically, the defense, who kept opponents to under 16 points per game last season, will have to capitalize on their awesome performance last year for the Broncos to repeat their success.
Amari Gilmore, who Thompson calls the best defensive back he has ever coached, is consistently ranked among the top 2022 graduates in the state. Thompson lauded him for his ability to make crucial plays in critical moments, something that he is hoping to do more of as he hopes to turn the heads of more Division I coaches.
Playing in front of Gilmore are four senior linebackers, including Jaydin Lucero and Riley Nolan in the middle and Bobby Gaitan on the defensive line who Lucero is counting on to make big plays.
Offensively, senior Drew Dalmacio will get his first extended stint as the varsity quarterback, but he is no stranger to playing at a high level on the varsity stage; he earned an All-Region Second Team nod playing safety last season and according to Thompson, was one of the best at his position in all of the 4A conference.
Dalmacio says he benefited from backing up his mentor, Lloyd. He will also benefit from a variety of offensive weapons at his disposal.
“We’re hoping (our line) can do a job for those guys,” Thompson said. “And we’ve got some other athletes in different spots that, if those big guys do their jobs and I think they will, that’ll give us a chance to be pretty successful offensively.”
Replacing Burns is an explosive athlete in his own right, senior Octavious Joe. A dynamic track star, he had minimal carries last season as Burns’s backup, but the feeling around the team is that he has the ability to maintain the Broncos’ impressive run attack.
Among those weapons are 6’5”, 320-pound left tackle Cade Alisa who will lead an offensive line that Thompson described as “big and powerful.” At tight end, Connor Lopez has the size and blocking ability to open up the pass and run games.
The Broncos are loaded with talent that can rise to the challenge, but in a tough 4A division, it will take an awesome performance from all of them to reach the goal of becoming state champions.