The varsity football team of the 7-year-old l finished its most successful football season this past December. The Jaguars were crowned City Section Division II champions after beating Marshall High School 51 to 34 in a season with 13 wins and a single loss.
The team had been improving since the school's founding in 2005, and had a winning season during 2010, with seven wins and four losses and all seniors as players. However, this year’s younger team credits the new style of training as a key factor in the success of the past season.
“The most important improvement for me was speed,” said Alex Alvarez, 17, an 11th grade student at South East High and a receiver/cornerback with the school’s varsity team. “My sophomore year, I was not as fast and flexible.”
More running exercises were included in this year's training and players felt the difference, they said.
Their improved flexibility and speed allowed the offense to outmaneuver the opposing teams' defensive lines, resulting in an effective spread offense and a more focused defense.
“I was more relaxed during the game,” said Javier Madrigal, 16, an 11th grade student and linebacker. “We did a good job stopping other teams.”
“We had to make some major changes in the program,” said Derwin Henderson, head coach for the Jaguars. “We had to hire new staff.”
It was Henderson’s first season at South East High, as well as his first time as a head coach. He has served in various high school-level coaching positions in football during the last 10 years.
New staff was brought in after only two out of eight coaches from the previous year stayed. Those who left did so because of differences over the new training program, said Henderson.
“I was going to keep all of them, but they didn’t like the transformation,” said Henderson. “We took [the training] from a power game offense and defense to more of a finesse, spread-out style of play.”
Speed and more agility were the main ingredients in the program. Trainings were cut from three to two hours after school because of the energy that the players burn with the speed exercises.
“We incorporated a lot more speed training,” said Henderson. “We wanted to do more than just weight lifting.”
Henderson also loosened team discipline for the better, according to Joe Hunter, a defensive team coach familiar with last year’s style of instruction.
“I think [Henderson] let them just play football a little more,” said Hunter, who worked with the previous team’s coaching staff as a volunteer. “[Players] will not react properly if they are worried that they are going to make a mistake.”
Players agree the different style of the new coaching staff is a positive change.
“We were too disciplined,” said Alvarez. “When Coach Henderson came, he gave us a good vibe. [The team] became one.”
The future of the team is seen as bright as a result of the last season. Both coaches and players are now looking ahead and thinking about spotting and training young talent.
“We want to get more kids involved,” said Henderson. “One [way] is to bring more 8th graders from the city.”
Next year's senior players agree the training of younger players is important.
“What we're trying to do is teach all the young players the same philosophy [Coach Henderson] taught us,” said Madrigal.
The veteran players are coaching younger players to help ensure continuing championships even after they graduate.
“I want to help this program build a dynasty,” said Alvarez. “We have a lot of young players coming up.”
But the Jaguars are not losing their focus on the 2012 season as they continue to train with high spirits.
“I think we have a chance of going undefeated this year,” said Henderson.
Returning players are also positive.
“The word of the year is 'repeat,'” concluded Alvarez.
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