FAIRFIELD — For the third straight year and for the seventh time in the last 12 seasons, at least two city high school football teams will open practice with a new coach at the helm.
In fact, the only seasons since 2001 that began without a coaching change in the city were 2003, 2007 and 2008.
Workouts begin Monday with newly-hired Berwyn Hutcherson taking over for Sarj Singh at Rodriguez, and former Mustangs coach David Fishleigh, who’s replacing Eric Barber, trying to turn things around at Fairfield.
Hutcherson is new to the varsity but not new to program, having coached the Rodriguez junior varsity to a 7-3 record in 2012, and was also an assistant with the JV squad in 2011.
“The JV squad has been 40 strong since June,” Hutcherson said. “We look for them to reach about 60 players. Varsity, we’re trying to rebuild there, so . . . . We got down to around 20 players (over the summer). Now they’re starting to come back out. Hopefully we’ll get to 40 players with varsity.”
Hutcherson plans to have the Mustangs go from 3:30-7:30 p.m. in what figures to be a busy first day.
Fishleigh is back as a head coach after a five-year hiatus following a three-year stint at Rodriguez (2006-08) that included two Solano County Athletic Conference and one Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title.
“It feels good. It’s been a long spring and summer of hard work,” Fishleigh said. “Now we get to get going preparing for games.”
The Falcons, who suited up just over 20 players much of 2012 in going 1-8, are looking for bigger and better numbers this fall.
“I’m hoping for between 75 and 80 (players) for both levels,” Fishleigh said. “It might be lower but that’s my hope which would be higher than what Fairfield High had last year.”
Fishleigh plans to go from 3:30-7 p.m. on Monday and knows some of that time will involve paper work.
“The first day, (the plan is) just to get all the physicals cleared and start putting in the offense and defense,” Fishleigh said.
Karl Finley begins his second season at Armijo with both good and bad news. He won’t have to introduce a new system to the squad, but there are few returning players to take advantage of the familiarity.
Finley is looking for somewhere between 65 and 75 players out between the JV and varsity teams, but expects only nine players back. Practice the first day is scheduled from 2-6 p.m.
“We’re light years ahead this year (over) last year,” Finley said. “I think that’s the big thing for us. Last year we were just starting out. This year we’re way ahead.”
The Indians set a school record with 454 rushing attempts as a team that went 1-9 in 2012 and essentially has the entire offensive line returning, a huge plus for a squad that rarely puts the ball in the air.
“That’s probably our biggest thing,” Finley said. “We did some good things with the offensive line (in 2012) despite everything. They’re all back. It’s exciting looking at what our offensive line is going to do.”
Unlike the other city schools, which have teachers in meetings starting Monday and classes beginning on Wednesday, school doesn’t start in the Travis School District until Aug. 22.
That means Vanden has the option of splitting its practices, an opportunity ninth-year coach LeVon Haynes is taking advantage of.
After going from 4-8 p.m. on Monday, the Vikings will go from 6-8 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. starting on Tuesday.
“I feel like (having two-a-days) is a great advantage for us,” Haynes said. “It allows our staff to really get a chance to evaluate the kids better in that type of setting. Having to have school the same week you start football, I couldn’t imagine that happening. The kids are already rattled enough the first week of school, especially the first day. They’re getting used to routines, what’s goes on.
“I think it gives us the advantage of still enjoying football and enjoying that last little bit of summer as well. It allows us to have practice times we have – not too hot, not too cool – and we don’t have to share field with JV team and soccer teams.”
As in recent seasons, the Vikings figure to have the largest turnout among city schools despite being the third-largest behind Armijo and Rodriguez.
“We’re expecting probably about 50 on the varsity and 45 on JVs,” Haynes said. “You just never know, it always fluctuates. With our unique situation, kids transfer in from out of state. Military transfers are probably just arriving now, finding out about fall sports.”
According to Sac-Joaquin Section rules, teams must complete two days of conditioning before they can put on pads, meaning Monday and Tuesday are done in T-shirts, shorts and helmets.
“We’ve got to hold the reins a little bit, kind of see what the numbers are like, see what guys show up,” Haynes said “It’s the start of football, the start of the school year. Let’s get it going.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.