Suiting up for their third head coach in as many seasons this fall, Bradshaw Mountain High's veteran football players likely had a simple request of the latest hire: develop and maintain continuity on and off the field in a trust-filled environment.
If the early stages of energetic, tough-nosed first-year Bears lead mentor Jared Woodruff's tenure are any indication, it appears that they have their man.
"We'll all win together and reap the benefits as a team, or we'll all lose together and suffer the consequences as a team," Woodruff said from preseason practice earlier this month at Bob Pavlich Field. "There's no such thing as 'half wins.' "
Despite being well conditioned physically, winning will be easier said than done for Bradshaw, which will begin the 2013 campaign without several key players who are serving suspensions for undisclosed reasons.
Junior Jarett Cain (5-foot-8, 150 pounds), whom Woodruff considers his No. 1 quarterback, won't start until the team's second game. Last fall, Cain played behind former starter Skylor Clinton, a senior who transferred to Prescott High in the off-season.
Bradshaw kicks off its 2013 schedule at home against Glendale Apollo at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30.
Woodruff, the Bears' offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, said he's still deciding who all will start in the opener, but he has a QB in mind.
BMHS senior Carter Thompson (5-11, 170) should start under center against Apollo, with senior Mikey VanDyke (5-8, 160) as his backup until Cain returns.
"Jarett Cain, he is the best and most savvy quarterback we have," Woodruff said. "But quarterbacks are not born, they're raised."
Division 3, Section 4 Bradshaw brings back approximately 10 players from its 2012 team that finished with a 3-8 record under former coach Adam Schiermyer, who resigned in the off-season after one season to accept a similar position in his native Michigan.
Schiermyer's squad lost five straight games to end last season. Bradshaw floundered primarily because of untimely injuries, turnovers and player defections, which obliterated its postseason aspirations.
Woodruff said he's well aware that the team's circumstances must improve in those aspects, particularly with possession of the pigskin, if BMHS is to rebound.
"You've got to carry the ball properly," he said, referring to the 2012 club's negative turnover margin. "We've got to learn to play as a team. And we've got to work on technique. We had like 10 concussions last year, and we've got to get that number down. We cannot go through a season like that."
The coach added that he's installed a spread offense, which he's committed to running the entire season. Last year, the Bears attempted to operate in the spread but soon abandoned it.
"They were trying to find the answers," Woodruff said. "Not that I have all the answers, but I have more than they had. I don't doubt that for a second."
Quick, soft-handed Bradshaw senior wide receivers Augie Espinoza (5-10, 155), Nick Martensen (5-11, 155), Casey Huntley (6-1, 165) and Angel Holguin (5-11, 175) will be crucial cogs in the offense.
"Our starting receivers - I've got a lot of faith in them," Woodruff said. "The question is, can we get the ball to them?"
On defense, the success of the Bears' attacking, swarming 3-3-5 alignment will hinge on senior linebacker Lupe Valdez (5-11, 205), although he'll miss at least the first two games. Last fall, Valdez led Bradshaw in tackles before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He's healthy now.
"Lupe Valdez is a huge part of the program," Woodruff said. "We expect him to have a big year."
Valdez said he likes the new coaching staff and is attending practices in the interim. He iterated that he's sticking by his squad.
"I'm here to help my team in any way possible," he said. "If that means me playing scout (team) in the first couple weeks, I'll do that. Last season's the past, and we're moving forward. Our program's going in the right direction. I guarantee you that I'm going to try my best, and I know teammates are, to make this the most successful year that we've had in a while."
Senior free safety/slot receiver Isaac Peña (6-0, 192), a transfer from 2012 Division 1 state champion Chandler Hamilton who attended Bradshaw as a freshman and sophomore, said the Bears have the pieces to win but need more intensity.
"We have a good receiving corps, a good quarterback corps, our running backs are sound, our offensive line is getting there," he said. "After we get everything together and we focus up on the field, come Friday nights it will be a different Bradshaw Mountain on the field."
The Bears have not qualified for the playoffs since 2010. Bradshaw made six straight postseason appearances under former coach Chuck Apap, with the exception of his final campaign in 2011.
Woodruff said he wants to re-establish Bradshaw's program as a postseason contender.
In that vein, he brought on former Bears star quarterback/defensive back David Moran as his defensive coordinator. David played in the 1990s for famed BMHS coach Steve Moran, his father, and later stood out on defense at NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Northern Arizona University.
VanDyke said he already feels better about Bradshaw's chances with Woodruff and Moran, a proven motivator, in charge.
"Here at Bradshaw, we overcome things," he said. "We're definitely going to turn our record around this year, and we're going to be a good football team."
Woodruff hails from an iconic football-coaching family tree. At the top is his grandfather, Don James, the highly successful former University of Washington coach.
For two years, Woodruff coached high school football as an assistant in Texas, although he's most recently labored at the college level. Over the past couple years he was a graduate assistant coach at NCAA Division 1 University of Wyoming.
Woodruff, 33, has Arizona ties, however, and he wanted to return to coach in a state that's familiar to him. A former high school quarterback in Tucson, Woodruff graduated from Catalina Foothills.
"I was looking for a head football coaching job - I felt like that's what I was born to do and what I was called to do," Woodruff said. "From living down in Tucson, I always dreamed of these mountains up here. It's just one of the most beautiful parts of the country.
"I love being here. You can win here at Bradshaw."