To win the Pacific League this season, maybe the Falcons need an attitude change. Or maybe they just need a healthy Marro Lee.
By Maddy PUMILIA
Players and coaches on the varsity Falcon Football team are hopeful for the upcoming season after preparing all summer.
“Our summer was pretty good. It’s pretty positive,” said Paul Schilling, who enters his second year as head coach.
After a short break, the team went back to practice in mid-August. When they got back from their break, they put on pads and went to work. The team did a lot of tackle and goal line drills, some of which had players very heated at practice. The players also lifted weights for short periods and participated in a conditioning circuit. The circuit included tug of war, mini sleds, tire lifting and jump rope.
“It’s hot, [they’re] tried, coaches yell,” Schilling said of the practices.
When many think of summer football practice before school starts, they think of Hell Week. Basically, it’s a period of long grueling practices. Schilling says the concept of Hell Week is going away and the team only had two twice a day practices. The met at different times — sometimes in the morning, other times in the afternoon and other days at night when it was cooler. Many schools no longer do Hell Week. Schilling said that next year, the team would maybe only have one day of two practices.
Earlier in the summer, the team kept practicing by doing passing scrimmages to keep in shape and prepare for the upcoming season. The team played against schools from Santa Clarita, Glendale and St. Francis, located in La Cañada. Passing scrimmages consisted of 40-minute seven-on-seven one-hand touch games without pads. The games were based on improving pass coverage. Quarterbacks had 3.6 seconds to throw the ball. If the quarterback failed to throw the ball within 3.6 seconds, the team would receive a sack. In addition to the quarterback, linebackers, defensive backs, running backs and wide receivers played in the scrimmages. Linemen did not play in the scrimmages, but they worked out with the team and meet with CV coaches.
“The scrimmages get us better prepared for what happens in the season,” said quarterback Zac Wilkerson in a previous interview. “Without scrimmages, we’d be less prepared.”
Schilling said his approach to handling his team is about the same as last year. He said what hurt last year were injuries. The same coaches came back and coach stability really helps. He said the he wanted practices to be more intense.
“They definitely got us more hyped up,” said Nick Ruiz, Wide Receiver/Safety. “There’s a lot more energy.”
“We’re working as a unit,” said tight end/outside linebacker Justin Springfield, who Schilling called a “phenomenal athlete.”
Schilling had a lot of positive words about his players.
He said Wilkerson was “doing well.” Wilkerson has been working on consistency, leadership, not being so hard on himself and keeping composure. He said Wilkerson really improved this summer. Last season, Wilkerson averaged 66.4 passing yards per game.
Schilling also pointed out senior running back Marro Lee, a key name when talking about the downfall of the Falcons in 2010. Last year, the team started 4-1 with Lee, but he after he broke his thumb, the team ended up 4-6. He averaged 8.4 points per game and seven yards per carry. Back in practice this season, Lee ran 4.5 seconds on a 40-yard dash. Schilling said the biggest thing for Lee is to stay healthy. Marro also gained 10 to 15 pounds, which Schilling said was an advantage.
When talking about who Wilkerson will be throwing to, Schilling pointed to Nick Ruiz. “He’s our best wide receiver,” Schilling said of Ruiz, who also plays safety. “He had a great summer.”
Ruiz averaged 13.87 yards per catch last season. Ruiz also plays goalie in soccer, so he will have to balance football and soccer. Schilling said Ruiz wouldn’t miss a game, but he might miss a practice.
If the Falcons need a bruiser, they will look to Nathan Sarreal. “He’s the toughest all around football guy,” Schilling said about his center/linebacker. “He’s the guy you want in an alley if bad things are going down.”
Players coming from the JV team that look good this season included running back/defensive back William Wang and offensive and defensive linemen Andrew Kiorkof and Naz Erdoglyan.
“The juniors look pretty good,” said Lee. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
“I think we are going to de fairly good in the upcoming season,” said defensive tackle Danny Dean.
“I think we should do good,” agreed defensive end Nick Cosfol. “It’s a pretty good team. The coaches are great. They know exactly what to do to make it better.”
When competing against the rest of the Pacific League, Schilling said Arcadia was “the team to beat.” He added Burroughs, Burbank and Muir High School would all be competitive.
The Falcons have its first scrimmage today against Monrovia High School at Monrovia at 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend. The address is 325 E. Huntington Dr., in Monrovia.
Next Friday, Sept. 9, the team plays its first regular season game against Santa Paula High School at Moyse Field, Glendale High School’s field. The address is 1440 E. Broadway in Glendale. Santa Paula is a non-league game. The next two games are also non-league against St. Francis and La Cañada. After that, they start battling their rivals in the Pacific League.