By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
It never gets old for Damien High School football coach Greg Gano.
Gano, a 31-year coaching veteran, enjoyed yet another first day of fall practice on Thursday by leading his Spartans through some conditioning drills as they started preparations for their Sept. 10 opener against Diamond Ranch. (To continue, click thread).
“If we’re not excited, we shouldn’t be coaching,” Gano said. “This is a great place to be and I’m excited about a lot of things.”
The Spartans went 5-6 in Gano’s first season but earned a share of the Sierra League title. With Gano on campus, expectations are high at Damien, but they may have to be tempered at least for this season, with only three out of 22 starters back.
“We’ve got to get kids in positions right off the bat,” said Gano, who won four CIF-SS championships at Los Altos.
“Not only that, we’ve got some new things we’re doing, so we have to get them ready real quick. I’ve got a great and loyal staff. I’ve got some guys who have done a lot of good things for me.”
Gano is surrounded by a veteran staff that includes defensive coordinator Lee Fair, former Monrovia coach Steve Garrison, former Wilson coach Dave Merrill and his son Ryan, who will take over play calling duties on offense, and John Howing.
The Spartans will shift from conditioning to full contact on Monday. It’s a transition that’s easier these days than it used to be even 10 years ago, when the first practices were badly needed to whip players into shape.
“Our kids came in today in pretty good shape,” Gano said. “It’s different now. Kids stay in shape over the dead period. I remember 25-30 years ago, we did nothing for the first few weeks of practice and we absolutely paid for it when the season started. The kids who aren’t in shape now, they’re not going to play much anyway.”
Gano credits Damien’s physical fitness and good overall appearance to an offseason program implemented by strength and conditioning coach Marc Estrada, who was with Gano at Los Altos. It also helps that the Spartans and Estrada have a new, state-of-the-art weight room to work in.
“Our strength and conditioning have really developed, and now we’re going to see how that carries over,” Gano said. “I’m excited to see how it carries over to the football field. I love the attitude of our kids.”