The field hasn’t been painted. The stands haven’t been built.
But there is no doubt, football will be at Anzar High in a little
more than a month.
SAN JUAN BAUTISTA
The field hasn’t been painted. The stands haven’t been built. But there is no doubt, football will be at Anzar High in a little more than a month.
It was less than two years ago when Luis Espinoza decided to pack up his bags at San Benito High and its junior varsity football team, in hopes of completing his teaching credential and masters’ degree.
He wanted to pull himself away from extracurricular activities and focus more on his education and the education of his students in the classroom at Anzar High School in San Juan Bautista.
It took him a little more than a year before he decided to jump back into coaching sports. After one year as an assistant to the girls’ volleyball team at Anzar, he decided to take a full leap back into coaching — as the head coach of Anzar’s new football team.
And as the new school year awaits, the reality of Anzar football is quickly coming to fruition.
Espinoza has spent the last month preparing 25 to 30 students for the new sport of eight-on-eight football, and just full contact football in general.
“We started on the basics,” Espinoza said. “I want to make sure they know how to protect themselves when they are out there. Some of the kids haven’t played football at all.”
And it’s that learning curve that may take some time.
Espinoza spent four weeks and 18 practices — which ended the first week of July — going over simple plays and figuring out the best position for each player.
=The team ran, and ran a lot, he said.
“First and foremost we wanted to get them conditioned and lined up properly,” he said. “We installed two running plays and four passing plays.”
Learning the offense — V-option — was the focus of only a portion of the four-week camp. Once school and full-padded practices start on Aug. 15, the team will invest more time on the playbook and tackling.
“We want them to tackling properly,” Espinoza said. “For their safety and because if you miss a tackle there is a lot of room to run.”
After the team separated in the beginning of July for the rest of the summer, Espinoza created a conditioning schedule to get the students into shape. Players are expected to run almost every day. On the first day of practice Espinoza plans to challenge their commitment.
“We will find out who followed the plan and who didn’t,” he said. “They have to earn their pads. We need to make sure they are ready — for their safety.”
But Espinoza wants to take it easy on the players so they can get used to the game, and not scare them off.
“We want them to come back,” he said. “There would have been nothing worse for us to have these intense practices and scare them off. We are building here.”
Espinoza wants to alleviate all possible pressure and any comparison to Hollister’s San Benito High Balers, he said.
“We are not them,” he said. “We want to create our own identity; our own traditions.”
Creating a new tradition is the ultimate goal for the newborn team and program. Unlike other football programs in the region, Anzar High will be a varsity squad with mostly freshmen. During summer practices, Espinoza had 12 freshmen and a little more than 10 upperclassmen.
“We are going to be a young team,” he said. “When we (the coaches) were watching practices we could only imagine what some of the kids would be like in four years.”
Espinoza hopes the students and new football players have fun with the unknown sports — and come back next year. The ultimate goal is the young players have enough success and create a tradition that allows the team to expand to full 11-man football.
“That’s the hope — eventually,” he said.
But first Espinoza has to start at the beginning — all the way at the beginning.
“We are teaching them to play this game,” he said. “We have to start a foundation.”