League: Division I Southwest
Head coach: Joe Aznarez, first season
2014 record: 7-4 (3-1 Southwest, second)
Returning lettermen: 18
Returning starters: Six offense, five defense
Base offensive set: Double wing/double pistol
Base defensive set: 4-3
Top offensive players: RB Aaron Chisolm (Sr.); OL Kyler Hack (Sr.); FB Chauntez Thomas (Sr.); OL Edgar Burrola (Jr.); QB Logan Hutchison (Sr.)
Top defensive players: DE Kameron Toomer (Sr.); DL Kyler Hack (Sr.); LB Chauntez Thomas (Sr.); LB Tyler Thornton (Jr.); LB Max Miller-Hooks (Jr.)
Top newcomers: RB Thaddeus Wiley (Jr.); DB Aaron Belshe (Jr.); LB Tyler Thornton (Jr.); LB Max Miller-Hooks (Jr.)
Key losses: LB/RB Jaren Campbell; OL/DL Joey Laurita; OL/DL; Dan Heller
Outlook: New coach Aznarez inherits a tough job in replacing the only coach Palo Verde has known.
Darwin Rost posted a 154-50 record in 19 seasons at Palo Verde, winning the 2004 state title and five region championships.
But Aznarez will hold the Panthers to the same standards.
“Even with the new coaching change the Panthers at Palo Verde should not skip a beat,” Aznarez said.
Aznarez will first have to replace the team’s graduated leader, Campbell, who was a second-team all-state linebacker and the team’s top rusher and scorer last season.
Thomas looks like the pick to take over the leadership role. He should see more time on offense this season at fullback, and he’s back at linebacker after recording 69 tackles and five sacks last season. He was a first-team All-Southwest League pick on defense.
The 6-2, 225-pound Toomer is back after recording 42 tackles last season to help lead the defense.
On offense, Aznarez won’t abandon Rost’s double-wing offense, and Chisolm should be a big part of that offense this season. He was second on the team in rushing last year with 507 yards and four TDs and made the All-Southwest League second team.
The team must replace a pair of strong linemen in Laurita and Heller, but the 6-6, 282-pound Hack is back to anchor the offensive line.
“I think that our group is confident and ready to take the next step,” Aznarez said. “We will be physical on defense and continue our power run game with a few wrinkles.”