Lucero, Desert Edge tackle new season


Desert Edge is coming off of a 9-1 regular season and a playoff appearance. (Photo courtesy Desert Edge)
By Israel Gonzalez
 
Two years ago, Jose Lucero helped lead the Desert Edge Scorpions to a state championship as the offensive coordinator. Now he’s looking to do the same as the head coach.
 
Lucero was hired as the head coach for Desert Edge earlier this year after Rich Wellbrock left to coach at Basha High School. Being familiar with the system, Lucero said he and the team “hit the ground running” as soon as he was certified by the Aqua Fria Union High School District. Now at the helm of the team, Lucero said he is ready to start the season. 
 
“We’re excited with the group we got coming back and looking forward to the season. The kids have been working hard all summer,” Lucero said. “We like our core. It feels like we’re doing pretty good upfront with our O-line and D-line. And we’re just excited for our first game and see where the chips fall.”
 
Desert Edge is coming off a 9-1 regular season and a playoff appearance that saw them beat Verrado in the first round. But they’ll be missing core pieces, including Tehran Thomas, a dual-threat quarterback who amassed 2,774 combined yards his senior year and that was a big part of the championship team in 2015. The team also lost another big piece in running back Roshaun Johnson who gave the team versatility. 
 
“Anytime you lose one of your starting quarterbacks and your starting running back it’s going to be a bigger loss,” Lucero said. “But we feel real confident in the guys who are stepping up to replace them this year.”
 
Despite the losses, Lucero is excited about the players that are returning this year.
 
“We have a lot of key pieces coming back,” Lucero said. “I’m a big believer in the game is won and loss up front. We have four returning starting offensive linemen and all three starting defensive linemen are back. And three linebackers are coming back.”
 
Many players on the current roster also played on the state championship team in 2015, including three offensive linemen who started in 2015 and Rocky Perez who had more than 1,000 rushing yards the last two seasons, Lucero said. The coach also sees championship caliber on the rest of the roster. 
 
“The kids have a similar mindset to that (championship) group,” Lucero said. “They work hard. The kids really have each other’s backs and they like to be around each other. I think those are key components in putting together a special year like we did in 2015.”
 
Lucero’s familiarity with the team has also helped smooth the transition of having a new head coach. The offensive and defensive coordinator on the team will remain and the schematics the team uses will largely stay the same.
With the loss of Thomas, the offensive schematic will be more fine-tuned towards likely starter Tyler Henry, Lucero said. 
 
“We always try to build our offense around the people that we have,” Lucero said. “Last year having a quarterback like Tehran Thomas we were more of a read option. This year we’ll probably be a little more balanced with the receiving core we have coming in and the quarterback we’re going to have.”
 
Desert Edge will start the season against Centennial, who also went 9-1 during the regular season and bumped them out of the playoffs in a 6-21 loss for the Scorpions. The rest of the schedule doesn’t get easier either with a tough game against Deer Valley and an emotional rivalry game against Verrado, who beat them last year, Lucero said. 
 
While Desert Edge won its region last year, with a 4-1 record, it will be a hard section to play in again, Lucero said.
 
“I think it’ll be tough,” Lucero said. “Deer Valley is coming back with a lot of kids. They’re going to be very tough to beat. As you know, other schools continue to get better. I think it’ll be a tough region again and I’m looking forward to the challenge.” 
 
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