FAIRFIELD — Practice for football – and all high school sports in the Sac-Joaquin Section – begins Monday, and for the first time since 2008 all four city grid teams have the same coach as the season before.
Berwyn Hutcherson broke a string of six coaches in six years at Rodriguez, joining Ken Nadeau and David Fishleigh as one of three coaches out of the eight in the school’s 12-year history to be invited back for a second season.
“We have some great kids, great athletes coming out,” Hutcherson said. “Hopefully the consistency will attract players and coaches (who decided to go elsewhere) to come back to Rodriguez. That’s the goal. We want to become a powerhouse again. It comes down to the consistency – and winning games.
“One thing I’ve learned, the kids, they’re smart, they learn quickly. They need consistency and continuity. That’s why the Napa teams, the Vacaville teams, the Vintage teams are so good, because they have the same consistency in offensive styles every year. They run the same thing through their feeder program, JVs and varsity, they know what they run. If you don’t know what they run, you can’t make adjustments.”
Teams are already adjusting to state legislation passed earlier this summer that will change the way teams practice between games and during the offseason.
Bill AB 2127, which goes into effect in 2015, prohibits game-speed tackling drills during the offseason, meaning no contact summer camps. Teams are also limited to two 90-minute contact sessions and 18 hours of practice per week during the season. The changes also apply to youth football.
In some ways, football will be altered forever, in others changes have already been implemented.
“It affects a lot of things for a lot of people, especially for teams that go to camps like we do and Vacaville High School,” Vanden coach LeVon Haynes said. “It’s something that builds team camaraderie, it’s a good evaluation period to see your guys in pads. It’s one less thing to plan logistically, plan vacations around.”
As for practice itself, many teams have already begun reducing midweek contact.
“It’s no problem, it’s good, I think,” Armijo coach Karl Finley said. “It’s especially great with the little guys, Pop Warner coaches. They’re hitting too much as it is. It’s good to have absolute constraints on everybody, make it a more cerebral game than just butting heads.”
Fairfield coach David Fishleigh called the changes “good for the game” and feel they are “going to cut down on injuries.”
As for the Falcons’ workouts, “we’re not going to have to change anything with the way we practice,” Fishleigh said. “We’ve done everything to begin with. We may change a few things, one-on-one tacking situations, may cut back on those. But other than that we’re not going to have an impact on what we do.”
Hutcherson said he and his staff plan to spend more time on fundamentals because of the high number of players coming out who have never played organized football.
“These days a lot of kids are not football savvy,” Hutcherson said. “They don’t play growing up, they don’t have the instincts. These days there’s more to contend with – video games, social media – more to grab their attention. We’ll spend a lot of time on fundamentals.”
Hutcherson is looking for a turnout of between 40 and 45 players on the varsity level, 50 to 60 for the junior varsity.
The Mustangs will go from 9 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 on Monday and Tuesday. With school starting on Wednesday, they will go from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. that day and on Thursday with a 6-8 p.m. workout on Friday.
Finley is looking to have approximately 35 varsity and between 35 and 40 JV players out. The Indians are planning to start at 3:15 on Monday and Tuesday and 5:15 the rest of the week, going for about two hours each day.
There is a sense of urgency at Armijo because the Indians have a Zero Week game at San Rafael on Aug. 29.
In looking at needing to get everything prepared in one less week, Finley said, “It’s going to be tight.”
With so many sophomores playing up on varsity for Fairfield last fall, essentially making the JVs a freshmen team, Fishleigh said the Falcons are looking for “between 75 and 80 the first day between the two levels.”
Players must conclude two days of conditioning before pads are allowed meaning Wednesday is the earliest contact drills may be held.
Even without hitting, there’s plenty to get done the first day.
“The first day is kind of a review of what we’ve done all spring and summer,” Fishleigh said. “We haven’t had a football for three weeks. We’re getting back to what we did all summer, making sure we have the right idea of what we’re doing and going on from there.”
The same with Finley and the Indians.
“We’ll make sure they’re exposed to the basics, the language the first few days and get them on board,” he said. “You used to assume they know. Now you say ‘line of scrimmage’ and they don’t know. We’ll start with Football 101 and a lot of other football programs.”
Vanden doesn’t start classes until Aug. 20 and their practice schedule reflects that. The Vikings will go from 3-6 p.m. on Monday before working out from 6-8 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. the rest of the week.
Of the start of practice Haynes said he’s “just excited to see the kids again, just to get the school year started, excited to see where we’re at mentally. Physically, I know where we’re at because I’ve seen them all summer.”
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.