Local schools hit the gridiron this week as fall practices kick off around the San Diego area.
At La Jolla High, the Vikings under head coach Dave Ponsford went 6-5 a season ago, losing to Valley Center in the Division IV CIFs.
Ponsford said the key to the opening of practice is making sure the players are in shape. "We have to get into game shape very quickly, as we open our first game versus Santa Fe Christian on September 6," Ponsford said. "Our kids worked very hard this summer. In fact, we had a very good number of participants in our twice-weekly running program and in the weight room four days a week. I think that we are ready physically."
The Vikings are expecting about 53 kids to try out for the varsity this week, as La Jolla opens its first two-a-day practices today.
"Our goals for the first few days are to improve our physical condition and to start working on learning the La Jolla system," Ponsford noted. "We can't start contact until Monday, August 18."
At neighboring La Jolla Country Day (LJCD) School, head coach Jeff Hutzler and the Torreys were to open practice on Wednesday, Aug. 13. LJCD finished 7-4 a season ago, winning its fourth straight Pacific League title, and got knocked out in the CIFs with a quarterfinal loss to Francis Parker in Division V.
"Like each season, we look to build upon the fitness program that we ran during the summer, adding pads and physical contact as well as installing our offense, defense and special teams," Hutzler said. "We want to come together as a team and see who emerges as our team leaders and get ready to play games in a few weeks."
LJCD opens with a CIF Kick-Off Classic "scrimmage" against Madison, which Hutzler expects will be quite a heady challenge for the Torreys.
Hutzler said LJCD will have a combined 60 boys out (varsity and junior varsity), which is one-third of the boys enrolled at the school.
"We attended a team camp in June and then went into a six-week, four-days-per-week strength and conditioning program," Hutzler added. "We also competed in three passing league competitions, two locally and one up in Los Angeles. We received terrific participation, attitude and effort from our boys this summer and have seen tremendous physical improvements in many of them. Our program is to the point where the boys know that they must prepare during the summer if they wish to successfully come out for the team in the fall.
"They know that we will hit the ground running on Wednesday and that we will not wait around for those who are not prepared."
At The Bishop's School, the defending CIF champion Knights, who went 12-0 last fall for head coach Mike David, opened practice last week. Bishop's has 55 players out for opening season practice.
"Our goal is to have the entire offense and defense in the first week," David commented. "We want to make sure we can block our offensive plays against any front and we want to be able to adjust to anything on defense. We do not spend a whole lot of time on just conditioning.
"We try to do running with a purpose. If a receiver is going to run a 50-yard sprint, then he might as well be catching a football."
As David sees it, the team's summer workouts are very demanding.
"Our players lift and get in condition for six weeks at two hours a day," David continued. "We also made tremendous strides in summer passing. I really believe we will be a fine throwing team this year."
David said the coaching staff expects its players to show up in shape.
"The early practices are not for us to get them in shape, but rather have the players be totally prepared for our early games," David added.