“Yesterday was like Christmas Eve and I woke up this morning very excited. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t excited about the level of experience we have. We get to a different level football now as far as teaching them. We’re not just going to be out here with our base stuff.” — Covina coach Darryl Thomas
By Aram Tolegian
Not since the 2006 season, when the Covina High School football program returned one of the best senior classes around, has there been this much excitement when the Colts took the field Thursday for their first day of fall practice. The Colts, who went 10-2 last season and swept the Valle Vista League, return their leading passer, rusher, receiver and tackler. With so much experience, the expectations have been heightened and the anticipation is palpable.
“Yesterday was like Christmas Eve and I woke up this morning very excited,” Covina coach Darryl Thomas said. “I’d be lying if I said we weren’t excited about the level of experience we have. We get to a different level football now as far as teaching them. We’re not just going to be out here with our base stuff.”
Thursday’s session was a lot of meetings for players and coaches. Thomas wanted to go over expectations, rules, the calendar and philosophy he wants in place for his team. But today is going to be more about competition and a different twist on how the Colts have done things in the past.
“We’re actually having a combine,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be like a college combine with different events.
“Kids don’t get in shape in three days, so we want to see who’s been working out and running during the dead period. We also want to make it competitive.”
The Colts will be put through tasks such as bench press, power clean, 40-yard sprints, shuttle run and an obstacle course. Awards will go out for top performances. Once Monday arrives, though, Covina will be in pads and everything is expected to take on a serious tone as preparations for the West Covina opener on Sept. 3 begin.
“I just think we’re excited to get ready for another opponent,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s West Covina and they’re double our size. They have better athletes than us and a bigger school.
“They won a CIF championship, but we’d be excited with whoever we’re playing. At least we’re not going to be banging ourselves.”
It should be noted the Colts handed the Bulldogs their only loss last season by using a furious fourth-quarter rally to spring the upset. Even after the win, not many area fans were of the belief Covina was the better team despite what the scoreboard said.
“Maybe it was a fluke, we’ll see,” Thomas said. “All questions will be answered in 23 days. They’re a great program. We’re excited to play them just like they’re excited to play us.”
Don’t expect Charter Oak’s players to sit around playing video games during their final few days of dead period. They’ll be finishing off workouts with former Charger and professional football player Jason David, who has been training the players during the dead period so that when fall practice starts on Aug. 15, everybody will be ready to go.
“We just don’t want our players to sit on their butts for two weeks,” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “We can’t have any contact with them, but it’s real nice for us because Jason works on quirks and coordination and conditioning.
“Most of the things he does is to get the kids as quick and strong as they can be so they prevent injuries.”
Charter Oak recently has shied away from too much contact during fall practice to prevent its own players from hurting each other.
This year will be no different as Farrar prefers to run practices leading up to the season like a college or pro team.
“The old days of 2- or 3-hour practices with guys doing a bull ring went out 20 years ago,” Farrar said. “Some days we’ll be in pads. Some days we’ll be in shells (helmets) and shorts.”