The wildly popular game of football — at the NFL, university or high school level — is an exciting, thrilling spectator experience, whether witnessed on television or from the seats of a stadium.
But down on the gridiron, it is far more substance than style. It is, in fact, a brutal and violent game at the field level, an ongoing series of bruising blocks and tackles. For the players, the harsh reality is that injuries can and do occur, and hence, part of the preparation for going to battle every week is conditioning.
For Coast Union football players, the summer conditioning program — preliminary to team practices — that head coach Thom Holt has mapped out includes lifting weights, agility training, stretching and cardiovascular workouts.
Senior Octavio Villalvoza is one of several players who show up at voluntary training sessions early mornings at the high school. On Monday, July 27, after taking part in intense agility drills, running the 40-yard dash several times and hustling up and down the blacktop next to the weight room, Villalvoza said he has positive expectations for the Bronco team this fall.
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“Two years ago, we were sophomores dependent upon the dream team,” the talent-rich 11-2 team that advanced to the CIF Division 7 championship game, he said. “Last year, we were juniors depending on the seniors, and there was a lot of inexperience on our team.
“It was hard to get us motivated to practice real hard last year because we all had our heads down, and we couldn’t find a way to get back up,” Villalvoza recalled, referencing a Bronco team that won just two of eight games.
This season the senior lineman, listed on last year’s roster as 5-foot-7, 275 pounds, is 10 pounds lighter now and has a positive approach to the upcoming season, based on a more experienced team that will take the field this fall.
He also has positive thoughts regarding his own skills based on the agility drills he has participated in this summer.
“I’ve noticed that I have more explosion; my ankles are more flexible, I’m jumping a little higher and I’m a little quicker now, too.”
Preseason team practice begins next week on campus, and Villalvoza says, “I’m really excited to get back out there. Coach Holt is motivated; he is pushing to better the sports at the school, and to get the football program back up and running. He’s trying to do that.”
Agility drills led by assistant coach Craig Brooke
On hand early Monday, July 27, were four Broncos: Villalvoza, Jimmy Welch, Roberto Cuevas and Eddie Camacho. Assistant coach Craig Brooke had players working on agility and quickness drills. “Dots and squats,” Brooke explained, help players with speed. About 10 patterns of five dots each are marked on the sidewalk next to the weight training room.
Players were asked to perform quick actions during which the feet briefly touch the dots and jump to the next dot patterns. After that drill they were put through several sequences on a ladder-like device laid out on the cement; this is an intense drill that emphasizes landing on the balls of the feet inside the squares.
How important is it that players show up for these voluntary workouts? Acknowledging that some players have other commitments, Brooke said, “If they’re available, it’s real important. It shows they’re motivated to want to play.”
Head coach Thom Holt’s perspective on the season
Asked what will be the underpinning of his team this year, Holt, standing outside the weight room, replied that the offensive line will be his foundation. He is pleased to have Villalvoza, senior Asher Armstrong, juniors Warren Smith and Roberto Quintero up front.
“This line will help us block because we’re going to do a lot of passing this year,” he said.
“We could be 50-50, 60-40 or 40-60 passing and running. We’re going to have a lot of options this year. We have two great quarterbacks — Alexis Mireles and Jack MacKinnon — and we’ll see who comes out on top. Right now, Alexis is doing really well because he knows all the plays and he’s a leader.”
By Aug. 3, Holt expects to have at least 20 players.
But before receiving a Bronco jersey, every player has to show up for 20 weight room workouts.
“I don’t want any kids getting hurt,” he said. “I want to make sure they all bulk up and are ready to hit and to get hit.”
One player that Holt expects a lot out of is senior Jimmy Welch. He’ll be playing receiver, running back and fullback, Holt said. And because Welch has been so focused on tennis, the coach believes his footwork has improved, and he’s quicker.
“We’ve got a great group coming out,” Holt said, as the cacophony of clanking weights and loud rock music nearly drowned out his voice.
Football practice begins in earnest next week, and the first game is a home contest against Fresno Christian on Friday, Sept. 4, with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m. Another home game, against Laguna Blanca, is set for the following Friday.
- Who: Fresno Christian vs. Coast Union (nonleague game)
- When: 7 p.m. Sept. 4
- Where: Coast Union High School