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High School

What we learned on Day 1 of practice in CCS

For Los Gatos coach Mark Krail, the first day of football practice is “like Christmas morning,” where he gets to see if the incoming juniors and seniors live up to the expectations that have been built through an off-season of hard work.

For other coaches, it is a time to drill the game’s most essential fundamentals into the team. For all, the first day of practice is a fresh start to what will hopefully be the first “normal” football season since 2019.

“We don’t even bring up the COVID seasons anymore,” Serra coach Patrick Walsh said. “I’d rather not talk about it ever again.”

Instead of focusing on the grim past, Central Coast Section teams partook in their first official practice of the season on Friday and optimistically prepared for 2022. North Coast Section teams will wait until Monday for their first practice.

Among the dozens and dozens of players scurrying around the glittering green field at Serra’s Brady Family Stadium was senior lineman Ryan Silver, who never stopped working after the team’s December Open Division state championship game loss to Mater Dei-Santa Ana.

“We’ve been lifting at 6:00 am since January, and after we took a week off when summer started, we went straight back to football and conditioning,” the 300-pound San Diego State commit said. “It’s been intense, but I think it’s gonna prepare us for the upcoming season.”

Football fans enjoy the ankle-breaking jukes, hard hits and deep bombs game days bring. But the coaches focused primarily on the mundane but essential aspects of the sport, which are the blocks those highlight moments are built upon.

Walsh knows those fundamentals will need to be automatic if the Padres want to start strong against perhaps the most ruthless row of opponents in Northern California. They head to the Sacramento area to play Folsom, then to De La Salle, and then finally they host Central Catholic from Modesto to start their season.

“For us, it’s all about fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals,” Walsh said, emphasizing the four-syllable word slightly more each time he said it. “We spend a lot of time focused on the core principles of football, like blocking.”

Coach Jason Harrison from Gunderson does not have to contend with a similar row of opponents, but his message to his team was almost identical. However, there was a twist.

After not being allowed to do much, if any, in the way of team practices or workouts until early July in 2021, Gunderson players came into camp out of shape. The form did not change until after the team had lost its first three games by a combined score of 140-6.

Once they were in shape, the Grizzlies went 6-1 down the stretch. As a team built upon playing fast and beating opponents through a deluge of quick-hitting plays, Harrison will drill this year’s team on executing fundamentals with pace, something they’ve already worked on during the summer.

“This summer, we did crossfit for our muscles and cardio endurance,” Harrison said. “It’s night and day from last year, at least from an endurance standpoint.”

Down the road at Los Gatos, Krail had many familiar faces peering through helmets during the team’s first practice. The Wildcats coach will need to find a replacement for now-Boise State linebacker Jake Ripp, but he is confident a collection of juniors and seniors will be able to fill the void.

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