No pads as of yet, but next season’s players get ready
Two down, eight to go.
Head Coach Ray Rook looks on as quarterback Aaron Fitch hands the ball off to Mackey Bond during offensive drills Thursday at the high school. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Spring football is under way at Del Norte High School, and the Warriors have used up a fifth of their California Interscholastic Federation North Coast Section–mandated 10 spring practices.
So far, so good, Del Norte head coach Ray Rook said Friday.
“Wednesday’s practice was the best offensive practice since I’ve been head coach, and the best since I’ve been with the program,” Rook said. “(Thursday) wasn’t as good. The coaches have to get back to the war room and work that out.”
Rook, entering his third season as the Warriors’ head coach (he has been with the program for over a decade and played for Del Norte), hopes to see continued improvement in the 64 sophomores, juniors and seniors out for spring practices over time.
The Warriors will hold practices every day Tuesday through Friday in each of the next two weeks. As per North Coast Section rules, practices may not be conducted in pads. The Warriors will practice as one group, rather than break into varsity or junior varsity squads; NCS regulations permit five days of practice apiece between split squads.
“I hope at the end to have the offense installed and have the defense installed,” Rook says. “(The players) should be able to recognize all the formations. If practices are like Wednesday’s, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
The catch is that most of those formations will be executed against air, without pads and without an accurate sense of game speed. Nevertheless, the coaching staff will be able to pick up on players’ aptitude for the offense and defense and technique.
One aspect of football that will be effectively simulated in the spring is tackling. Rook has instituted a tackling drill that will be run at every spring practice.
“It’s the most important thing we do,” he says. “One, for the safety of the kids, and two, tackling wins football games.”
The Warriors finished the 2011 season with a 7-4 record, falling in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs to Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland. Del Norte’s junior varsity football team went 7-3 last season.
With seven seniors-to-be, the Warriors will rely on juniors and even sophomores for significant contributions this fall. Rook expects senior offensive/defensive linemen Lane Reichlin and Tyler Nelson to provide leadership, along with junior running back/linebacker Jordan Carpenter.
Every position will be open to competition, including quarterback, which Rook characterized as “a two-way battle” between juniors Aaron Fitch and Dylan Pease.
The runner-up in that battle needn’t worry: “They’re both good enough athletes that they’ll play significantly somewhere else,” Rook says.