If experience leads to success on the field, the Mission Prep football team has a chance to do some good things this season.
The Royals return 20 starters from last year’s squad that finished 8-2 but couldn’t secure an at-large bid to the CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division playoffs. That snub has weighed heavy on the mind of coach Chad Henry in the off season.
“Were still a team that hasn’t made it to the playoffs, hasn’t won a playoff game,” Henry said. “That burns deep inside the guts of every single one of our players here.
“We haven’t been there, but they have that burning inside of them to get there. There’s a sense of urgency, a sense of purpose that they’re bringing. Our seniors have really found a way to buy into that.”
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One such senior is starting quarterback Tyler Baty, who is entering his third year as Mission Prep’s field general. He’s coming off a successful season in which he through for 1,888 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“We’ve been at it for the whole summer,” Baty said. “The goal this whole off season has been to make the playoffs.”
Henry has had his Royals working since January, both on the field and in the weight room to prepare for this season. The extra work has shown immediate benefits.
“The number one difference from last year is our strength and size,” Henry said. “Our offseason program this year was phenomenal. We have kids that have really good-looking bodies. In our scrimmage against Templeton, it was probably the first time we walked on the field and looked like we belong.”
One noticeable area that has improved over the summer is Mission Prep’s offensive line.
“We’re going to be a lot more solid up front,” Henry said.
“That was our M.O. last year: great offense, big plays, but inconsistency on drives because of problems up front. I think that’s the area that’s really going to be improved this year. It’s night and day from what we had last year.”
The Royals have playmakers across the board. Wide receiver Joey Hall, who had 820 yards and 15 touchdowns receiving a year ago, will anchor a receiving corps featuring Trevor Fernandez (396 yards receiving, eight touchdowns a year ago) and tight end Evan Talbert.
Michael Cardwell and Patrick Laird, who combined for nearly a thousand yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, return at running back.
“We have seniors at every position, so that always helps,” Hall said. “When everyone works together, knows each other, they play harder for each other.”
With all that returning experience, Henry realizes there’s no longer any excuses. His team is built to win now.
“We’re not going to be sneaking up on people anymore,” Henry said. “It’s a different feel when you’re a team that people look at and say ‘Hey, that’s a game on our schedule that’s going to be tough’.