Santa Clara High School Head Football Coach Hank Roberts believes his young squad will be able to build upon last season’s 2-8 season. It won’t be easy though with last season’s team leader Pako Vehikite moving onto college.
“Losing Pako is like losing 11 players because of his personality,” chuckled the head coach. “This year is a younger team because numbers force it to be a younger team.”
“Of course it’s hard to lose a guy like [Pako],” commented senior starting quarterback Chris Brown. “More than just his playing, but his energy at practice.”
“He had a huge impact on the team last year,” added senior tailback Erik Ketton on Vehikite. “He was a great playmaker on defense and offense. He ran people over.”
While the Bruins may be shifting younger, Coach Roberts believes the consistent systems through junior varsity and varsity will allow for underclassmen to assimilate faster when brought up to the varsity level. Furthermore, over their long offseason, the Bruins didn’t miss much time in the weight room. Coach Roberts credits the dedication from his players to their parents.
“Our parents don’t get enough credit. Our parents are awesome. They get a calendar in January and they plan all their stuff accordingly. We have had between 80-95 percent attendance during our offseason training sessions and meetings,” said Coach Roberts.
The offseason attendance has made for a smooth transition into the start of the fall season. Santa Clara started practicing for the new season back in the first week of August. Their first game will be at home against Prospect on Friday, August 25. The players appear confident with where they are at in their preparations.
“For all our practices so far, we’ve been going a lot faster than previous years, just upping the tempo for the whole team,” recalled Brown after practice. “We’ve had some full-padded practices and it’s been quite physical out there so I’m excited for the season to start.”
Both Brown and Ketton expressed an upbeat attitude about the season while admitting to needing to improve as individuals. As a tailback, Ketton is hoping to work on his acceleration to penetrate the holes provided by his offensive line.
“I need to work on my acceleration and get-off speed. That’s the main thing I’m focused on, is trying to get those extra yards,” said Ketton.
Along with Brown and Ketton, the Bruins offense has the makings of a talented core of skilled players including wide receiver Nick Garcia. Coach Roberts is particularly looking forward to another year of development from his junior wide wide out.
“The best thing about Nick is his competitiveness. Even though he had a really great game against Mountain View last year, he dropped a two-point conversion and that’s the thing he remembers. He’s never satisfied, he always wants to be better.”
Garcia, Brown and Ketton all played key roles on varsity last season, so there is some veteran experience mixed in amongst an overall younger squad.