Coast Union High School’s Thom Holt is entering his second year as both athletic director and head football coach. He sat down for an interview after passing practice Thursday, June 30, and predicted that Bronco football this coming season will emphasize speed.
“Every practice is speed drills. We’re going to be a big team, but we’re going to be awful fast. Our offensive system is more concrete (than last year). We want to start off as a quick, fast, up-tempo team. Between eight and 12 seconds, I want another play to be run.”
Holt said he believes his team can follow through with that quick tempo.
“And if we can do that in eight-man football, we should tire out the other teams — and have more offensive plays.”
That could mean using a no-huddle offense, and Holt said he feels comfortable asking his team to step up the pace because they’re “capable and intelligent.” What worked well for Coast last year was the run game, led by fleet-footed junior Alam Ramirez, who got loose for 652 yards on 70 carries and scored five touchdowns.
“Our run game is top-notch. And this year our kids pretty much know the system, so that should be a benefit,” Holt said.
Holt will trust senior quarterback Jack MacKinnon to call an audible “if he sees something in the defense.”
New coaches this year include former Bronco standout receiver Tommy Moreno (working with the passing game), and Marty Maples, an offensive line coach who will emphasize blocking skills.
Holt on concussions
“When a parent comes to me and says they’re worried about concussions, I tell them that one of our priorities is safety for the kids,” Holt said. “Same in the weight room: We emphasize safety before any kid starts lifting.
“We focus on tackling correctly. Make sure your head’s not down. Make sure your eyes are always at your target. From what I hear, we had the best tackling in the last 20 years,” he said.
Assistant coach Craig Brooke is emphasizing a tackling scheme “that is more of a rugby tackle. Your head is on the side” because you never attack an opponent with your helmet first, Holt said.
“From the first week of practice in August, before we put on pads, we are practicing tackling the right way. It’s the players’ arms wrapping up the opponent,” which Holt believes will prevent injuries to a player’s head.
We focus on tackling correctly. Make sure your head’s not down. Make sure your eyes are always at your target.
Coast Union athletic director and football coach Thom Holt
Holt on athletic director challenges
In his first year as athletic director, Holt said he tried to focus on safety for student athletes.
“My major concern was gophers — and the condition of the practice fields and the stadium field.”
Noting that the holes and piles of ground-up dirt created by gophers “has been going on for decades,” Holt said he was not blaming the district. Nonetheless, he is committed to finding a way to rid the Coast Union fields of this menace.
Recently, barn owl boxes were installed near the fields, and a barn owl set up residence in the box near the baseball field and killed several gophers. But sadly, the owl got his talons tangled in a chain-link fence and had to be euthanized.
“How do we fix this? Perhaps (artificial) turf (on the football field) is the answer,” Holt said. “It’s a lot of money, but safety-wise it’s something I’m looking into along with the other coaches.”
Other priorities that Holt tackled this past year include updating player awards and banners in the gymnasium. He also wants to put another trophy case in the gym’s foyer. He hopes to get the money for these improvements from the Bronco Boosters Club and future fundraisers.
In retrospect, Holt said that he made some mistakes when he arrived a year ago, most notably initiating a rule that a high school coach could not coach a team that included his or her own son or daughter. Facing criticism, the high school later reversed that ruling.
Eventually, Holt hopes to establish a football program that achieves the same level of success that volleyball coach Pam Kenyon and basketball coach Tim May have established through the years at Coast Union.
“It’s hard, because there is no feeder program,” he concluded. “But eventually, I hope to get the football program going.”