The top feels lonely, but the middle lacks elbow room.

With a new coach, a new attitude and an outright battle for quarterback, Catalina Foothills promises nothing if not an interesting season, a fresh look — and a fight to climb from the depths of the 4A Sonoran region.

“They want to get better, and you can’t replace that,” head coach Matt Johnson said of his Falcons.

The former head coach for Rincon/University knows that discipline and work ethic rank among the few things a first-year coach can control.

But Johnson, a devotee of the power run game, has enjoyed watching his options open as junior quarterback Adam Larriva (6’3”, 205 pounds) claws for a job once predestined to “physically gifted” senior tosser Breck Ashdown (6’4”, 205 pounds).

“Last year we were scared to go into Cienega and Salpointe. They were just such powerhouses,” Ashdown said. “That’s going to change this year.”

Larriva echoed Ashdown — verbally, and for the moment.

“We’ve got a lot of new things going on this year. It’s exciting,” said the junior. “This team needed to believe we could start winning.”

The Falcons’ game is already changing on defense. Daily hitting drills are back in style. Sore players trot to the water carts.

Senior linebackers Ernie Escarcega (6’1”, 215 pounds) and Vince Adams (6’1”, 195 pounds) credit Johnson’s Monday mini-camps for shattering cliques, as players fight to keep spots.

“We stopped feeling any expectations last year. Everyone thought we went soft,” Escarcega said. “We’re going to be hitting a lot harder now.”

After last year’s mid-conference 5-5 finish, the Falcons weren’t the only ones ready to shake things up. Johnson marveled at the support he received from Foothills families, as he molded the team into a tight clan.

“They just came up to me and said, ‘What do you need us to do?’” Johnson said. “The community has been very welcoming.”

Catalina Foothills High School

Mascot: Falcons

Colors: Royal blue and silver

Coach profile

Matt Johnson, first year

Previous: Coached four years at Rincon High School; six years’ assistant coaching at Amphitheather High School

2007 record (5-5, 2-2)

Aug. 24 at Cienega L 33-14

Aug. 31 Rio Rico W 41-20

Sept. 7 Douglas W 24-7

Sept. 14 at Flowing Wells W 14-7

Sept. 20 Sabino L 62-7

Oct. 5 at CDO L 48-0

Oct. 12 at Santa Rita L 45-14

Oct. 19 Marana L 37-13

Oct. 26 Pueblo W 41-21

Nov. 2 at Cholla W 35-0

2008 schedule

Aug. 29 Cienega        

Sept. 5 at Rio Rico

Sept. 12 at Douglas        

Sept. 19 Flowing Wells    

Sept. 26 at Sabino            

Oct. 10 Canyon Del Oro    

Oct. 17 Santa Rita            

Oct. 24 at Marana            

Oct. 31 at Pueblo    

Nov. 7 Cholla

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