NEWMAN — When it comes to the happenings of last season, the Turlock Christian High football program would rather not talk about it.
For their first game, the Eagles had 23 players. By the time their season finale rolled around, they had only 13 available — just two above the required 11-player minimum to field a team. How come? One word: injuries.
“I’ve been coaching for many, many years,” Eagles coach Rusty Lyon said, “and I’ve never had that many injuries in a season.” He took a brief pause. “I never had that many in a whole decade. It was just one of those years where we had a lot of guys go down. I don’t expect that to happen this year.”
The Eagles are eager to reintroduce themselves this season, especially, as Lyon puts it, because they have an experienced and matured group. Their quarterback, junior Chase Gonzalez, is an underclassman but has a year of varsity starts under his belt. Their other key returners — including Nick Truax, Schyler Johnson, Micah Larsson, Ethan McSweeney and Martin Moreda — all believe they have something to prove this time around.
“It’s good to get back to it,” said Truax, who missed half of last season after an appendix surgery. “I’ve been training hard. It looks like we’re going to be a strong team this year.”
“We try to forget it,” Gonzalez said of last season’s 2-8 campaign. “But it helps to work harder to have a better season this year.”
“We still have a lot to work on, but we’re doing very well,” McSweeney concluded.
On Thursday afternoon, the Eagles ended an aspect of their summer at Orestimba High’s Warrior Stadium: 7-on-7 football. The activity allowed Gonzalez to get in plenty of snaps, as he’s shaping into a competitive quarterback after participating in this summer’s Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana with coaching from NFL greats Peyton and Eli Manning. The activity also allowed the receivers and defensive backs to get familiar with the different formations Lyon and his coaching staff will use this season.
“We have to get close to our coaches,” Larsson said. “We have to understand our offense and defense, and we have to do it as a team.”
So far, Turlock Christian has around 25 players this season. For a small-school program like the Eagles, that’s a promising number. They just hope they’ll have healthy players throughout the upcoming season.
Their first game is Aug. 27 against Millennium High in Tracy.
The Eagles are preparing the best they can for that date. They consistently visit the weight room when they’re not out on their school’s practice field working on conditioning. Everything they do, including the 7-on-7 scrimmages, will help.
“Being out here scrimmaging,” Gonzalez said, “it’s helping with everything.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.