At an Elsie Allen High School football practice this week, a group of defensive players took turns practicing tackles on one side of a field while the handful of offensive players ran drills on the other side.
At a small school that had a winless record in 2014, new head coach Bill Wight is faced with the daunting task of getting the bodies on the field if the Lobos want a chance to write a new chapter.
“We have a very small group,” Wight said, “but the guys who have shown up came out with a passion. They’re tired of being the whipping post of everyone around here.”
The first thing the Lobos hope to gain this season is respect, the coach said, and players are putting in the work to obtain it.
“They want to be competitive,” he said of his players.
As if short numbers weren’t already putting pressure on the Lobos’ new coaching staff, a string of injuries has also presented an early setback. Senior center Michael Vega will be out for an unknown amount of time to start the season.
But the highlight of the preseason has been the attitude of the core group of players who have shown up to the weight room and daily practices, Wight said.
Seniors Francisco Angeliaro, Ramon Zavala and David Armenta have been at every lifting session and team meeting, and that kind of dedication could change everyone’s perception of Elsie Allen football, Wight explained.
A new level of intensity and discipline has been key in turning around the “Elsie Allen attitude,” Armenta said, and the change has been welcomed.
“Before, people would talk back or have attitude,” he said. “Coach came in and put his foot down and it feels good.”
Lower numbers might be a worry, but senior quarterback Franki Suarez thinks it could actually benefit the squad.
“It will help us out because it will push the conditioning for each individual,” he explained. “Not a lot of guys means a lot more runs for them, so they are going to have a lot more stamina and conditioning.”
The Lobos could also see an increase in their ranks with school starting Wednesday and players waiting until then to start their football work.
If the core group of players who started Elsie Allen’s preseason can continue the same level of intensity and commitment throughout the fall, Suarez said, it will be the change Elsie Allen football has needed.
And hustle is a concept that has not been lost on the new Lobos squad, he added.
“You know you better be running to your position, otherwise you’re going to hear it,” Suarez noted of the new leadership. “The intensity level is definitely up.”
Although there are fewer bodies on the field, the positive outlook remains. The Lobos don’t want to be walked all over this year.
“It’s hard getting everybody out here, but now we are getting together and getting the plays in,” said junior running back and linebacker Steven Rosales.
Rosales is looking forward to seeing what the offense can piece together and sees real potential as the team heads into its first game of the season, on the road against Esparto on Sept. 4.
And the Lobos are already licking their chops over an opponent a little further down the line, rival Piner High School, who they will face at home on Sept. 25.
Getting rid of the Elsie Allen attitude is the first step, Wight said. Demanding respect is the second.
BY ALLIE COLOSKY FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT