FOOTBALL: CHS, GHS get to work at Freedom Football Camp

Christopher's Nic Slater runs the ball down field.

There were a few tackling guidelines outlined in a packet handed
out prior to the Freedom Football Camp hosted by Independence High
School on Friday and Saturday in San Jose.
There were a few tackling guidelines outlined in a packet handed out prior to the Freedom Football Camp hosted by Independence High School on Friday and Saturday in San Jose.

But put nine eager teams on the field, players in full pads, all itching to hit someone other than a teammate, and those regulations were stretched a bit.

It’s football; there was no scarcity of hits.

“They are kids and they get excited,” Christopher High head coach Tim Pierleoni said.

CHS and Gilroy High were among the nine teams (Cupertino, Gunderson, Mt. Pleasant, Overfelt, Santa Clara and Yerba Buena the others) participating in the two-day, full-contact camp, which allowed for much more actual football than a 7-on-7 situation. Teams lined up against each other 11-on-11, running a series of plays on both sides in scrimmages, getting a healthy taste of live, full-speed action.

“We have quite a bit to work on,” Pierleoni said Monday. “Nothing we do at a camp in July, good or bad, will tell us what will happen when the real bullets fly in September.”

Nevertheless, the Cougars, who are making a much-anticipated move to a spread offense, showed signs that the newly implemented way of moving the ball is beginning to sink in.

The Cougars had been getting a lot of work in at 7-on-7 camps, where passing is the name of the game. On Friday, though, one of many objectives for Pierleoni was to evaluate what his team could be capable of in the running department.

“That was our emphasis coming in here,” Pierleoni said. “We wanted to see how we ran the football. We got a chance to look at the line protection, too, and I thought the line did really well.”

Sophomore Rayshon Mills carried the ball quite a few times, as did incoming senior Marcus Harrell, who returns to the gridiron after a year off, Nic Slater and Mikey Pirnik.

“We are starting to see the kids take on the personality of what we are trying to do,” Pierleoni said.

Along the same parallels, first-year head coach Steven Lo, his coaching staff and the Mustangs are adjusting to one another as different transitions are set in motion.

“It was a shot for us to kind of assess where we are at right now,” said Lo, whose team dressed for its one and only full-contact camp. “It’s a lot different when you have them in shorts and a T-Shirt doing 7-on-7. So we got to size everybody up to see what we have.”

What the Mustangs have for sure is a speedy wide receiver corps, led outside by veterans Jourdan Soares and Ryan Alba. They also have a young offensive and defensive line, with one starter returning on each front – the same player, Alfredo Mireles.

“It’s a work in progress,” Lo said. “They are all still really young. We have our work cut out for us there. We will get it done, but it’s something that will take shape down the road.”

Ian Morlang had an active scrimmage against Yerba Buena, as did Ricky Alvarado, two ingredients who Lo said will most likely get mixed into the defensive side of things.

“The kids are still learning an entirely new system on defense,” Lo said. “Once they get used to it, they will run it much faster and with more confidence.

The camp concluded with a King of the Field tournament Saturday, where teams went against one another in a point-scoring format. Each offense had three downs to score from the 10-yard line. One point was awarded on offense for a touchdown and one for a defensive stop. The Cougars took second, finishing runner-up to Independence.

“I’m happy with how hard they played,” Pierleoni said.

Lo said some inconsistencies hampered the Mustangs’ progress through the activity, but appreciated the way they handled the adversity.

“We made some mistakes. There were a few moments where their character was tested and I liked how they responded,” Lo said.

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