Nothing says the start of a new football season like a team’s first fall practice.
For several area high school football teams, Monday signaled the beginning of a new campaign that will hopefully culminate four months from now with league championships and deep playoff runs.
“It’s go time now,” said second-year Duarte head coach Travis Brown. “There’s a sense of excitement. The kids are are locked in. You have spring ball season, your 7-on-7 season, but today was a different fit. There was no complaining and the guys were focused.”
The Falcons began official preparations at 8 a.m. on Monday for their Week 0 opener against Diamond Bar on Aug. 28. Duarte went 2-8 in Brown’s first season, but the former Los Altos standout receiver is hopeful his team will give a better impression this season.
“You want to avenge a bad season, but the one thing we’ve preached is that last year doesn’t matter,” Brown said. ‘We’re a new team with new identities. I think it took me getting a season under my belt to appreciate the entire process. We’ve got guys on this team now who are 100 percent bought in.”
Duarte did mostly conditioning drills on Monday and returned to the field at 3:15 p.m. for more of the same. Brown also said the team worked on installing its offense and first few plays.
Across town at El Monte, the vibe wasn’t atonement, more like greed. The Lions want even more success after finishing second in the Mission Valley League last season. El Monte is considered one of the favorites to win the league this season thanks to the return of standout quarteback Edward Dominguez and dangerous running back Roy Barajas.
“The excitement is kind of unreal right now,” El Monte head coach Joel Sanchez said. “They’re so fired up to get going. For a lot of these guys, it’s their third (varsity) year now and it’s amazing how things have changed.”
In order to win the Mission Valley League, the Lions will have to beat Arroyo for the second consecutive season and then find a way to get past defending champ Rosemead. Sanchez said his players know exactly what the task at hand is.
“Everybody’s No. 1 goal is to beat Rosemead,” Sanchez said. “Usually, everybody’s goal is to beat South El Monte. We’ve beaten Arroyo and South El Monte, but I think the Rosemead game, they’re looking forward to it. We didn’t play well last year and the year before we got our butts kicked. They know what they need to get fired up for.”
The Lions also got their pads on Monday, but won’t be able to use them until Thursday. Same with all teams that began practice on Monday. El Monte opens the season on Aug. 28 against reigning Almont League champion Montebello.
Later this week, Los Altos will renew what’s become its annual tradition of starting fall camp with a midnight practice. Late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, the Conquerors will take the field in preparations for the 2015 season.
What Los Altos does for an encore to its improbable 2014 playoff run is anybody’s guess. The Conquerors made it further in the playoffs than any local team by advancing all the way to the Central Division championship game where they lost to Colony.
Should any local team actually win a CIF championship this season, a trip to the state championship bowl game playoffs await. Under new CIF rules, all 13 CIF-Southern Section champions automatically qualify for the state championship bowl game playoffs.
That means the season could potentially be extended by two weeks to 16 games instead of the usual 14.