Are you ready for some football? Prep football, San Gabriel Valley style that is.
The Baldwin Park and Sierra Vista High School football teams are finalizing preparations for what both hope will lead to succesful seasons in ther respective leagues.
Baldwin Park finished last in the tough Valle Vista League after going 2-8 overall and 0-6 in league last season, but new coach Chris Williams is confident the Braves can compete and wash away the bitter taste of that disappointment.
"We're going to surprise a lot of people. Our size, our line up front is pretty good," said Williams. He adds the key to success will be a number of returning players and their ability to transition into a brand new scheme.
Williams previously coached at Gladstone, Wilson and Workman High. He also spent time at Mt. SAC under coach Bill Fisk. "I have always been local to the area and I know the program. I've known about the tradition they have here at Baldwin Park, tough smart kids. I know what they're about, so when the position opened, I jumped on it. I expect us to be right back in the league hunt."
Williams said the hardest aspect has been transitioning from a pro-style to a spread offense.
"The team is well coached, the boys know how to tackle, how to move, so it has been an easier transtion to go from a pro power team. Before they went 90 percent under center and now its 95 percent from the shotgun and that's a big change. We are going to be going from two to four wide receivers. The biggest thing has been for the boys to understand the system."
Williams said they also ran the spread at Utah where he graduated college. "I've always loved it, I think it's a great eqalizer in terms of creating mistmaches and it really gives your playmakers a chance to create offensively."
"The kids are asking the right questions. In the very beggining they might have been unsure, but late into summer they have started to manifest into a new team identity."
That new identity consists of running a no huddle, up tempo with lots of play action, something the Baldwin Park coaching staff hopes will be augmented by the addition of two basketball players (Alexis Baron and Alex Delgado.) "They come in and give us another dimension offensively," said Williams.
Two of the main guys according to coaches continue to be Steven Trinidad and Jonathon Duarte, both adept at securing the line.
Williams noted another player to keep an eye out for is running back Raymond Calzada. "He's the playmaker."
Michael Mora and Anthony Flores are both battling for the quarterback position. Williams said both players bring contrasting styles to the table.
"Mike is a natural leader, he started eight games for us last year, he is more of a 'lead by example' type, he is fundamentally sound, while Flores is a great athlete, he really gets after it. In the spread offense he will be a threat with his speed. So that's the balance we're trying to make- I am curious to see who's going to step up to the plate. They both have the respect of the team."
Respect is something the Braves are trying to elicit from all their Valle Vista league opponents. They open up against El Monte Aug. 24. Sept.28 they travel to play against San Dimas and the following week they take on the defending league champion Colts at Covina District Field.
The Sierra Vista Dons (6-5 overall, 5-2 League last season) under coach Don LeGro also have a plethora of returning players and they expect to be tough in the Montview League once again.
"We are a very young team but we are at the same time a very veteran team, we started at one time or another five different sophomores in our offensive line last year and they are all returning," said LeGro, "Our tailback is a junior, our wide receivers are all young kids, in fact we return nine starters on both sides of the ball."
The team's philosophy contiues to be smash mouth football. "90 percent of the time we run the ball," said LeGro.
Some key players for the Dons include Michael Mora, first time all league inside linebacker, senior fullback Sergio Gonzales, and tailback Lee Jones, a junior who also plays free safety but who battled through injuries last year. "We're expecting some really nice things from him."
"Anytime you have a lot of returners, the advantage of that is you have to spend less times teaching the basics," said LeGro, "We have been able to spend more time trying refine what we do and expand a little bit on what we are doing offensively and defensively. Last year because we were so young we were very simplistic on offense, and this year we hope to be able to expand on it."
It isn't going to be easy from the opening game. The Dons open up Aug. 24 against a Salesian team which finished undefeated and on top of the Santa Fe League last season. "We have a real tought test against them," said LeGro.
Other key matchups based upon last year's standing in league include La Puente and Azusa, the only teams Sierra Vista lost to last year. "We play La Puente week six and Azusa week 10. (Oct. 5 and Nov. 2) Azusa is the three time undefeated league champion, assuming that we survive the first part of the season that could be a rather large game."
LeGro added he couldn't say he was surprised by the team's efforts thus far. "Our kids have worked very hard two off seasons in a row, we can see the difference in our kids, they can see the difference in themselves, we are much more prepared physically, we have some very highly self motivated players who work very hard."
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