This is the first part in a series that will run throughout the summer, highlighting the different ways local high school football teams are preparing for the upcoming season.
These days, the Turlock High weight room is filled with the school's football players carefully trying to squeeze past each other without hurting anyone. They're in shorts and tank tops, and a lot of them wear images of a bulldog across their bodies despite what some of them went through a year ago.
Inside the weight room, it's hot and crowded. But there's another description a visitor can't deny: the noise. It's the sound of country music coming from a corner of the room that runs right beside the school's old gymnasium. It's the sound of teenagers grunting between every repetition.
But if the visitor listens close enough, there's one sound that's hard to miss.
That's the sound of redemption.
It pumps through their veins and into the metal bars inside the weight room.
Anyone associated with football knows the importance of lifting weights, even if the football season is months away. For the Bulldogs, it's Aug. 27. That's when they put on their gear and confront a hard truth: They haven't won a game in two seasons.
In 2009, Turlock went 0-10.
“We're trying to come back from last year, coming back from 0-10 to 10-0,” said senior Everardo Olide, expressing a goal that seems to be on everyone's mind.
As any football coach can attest to, it starts in the weight room.
For the Bulldogs, they've been working out since November, soon after they experienced only the school's second winless season since 1920. This summer, they're hitting the bench press, the back squats, the power cleans, the push press and other such exercises up to an hour a day, four times a week. As of now, there are about 65 players who come to the offseason workouts.
“There's a lot of training in the offseason,” second-year coach James Peterson said. “Summer is the last effort to get the guys ready to play. The only time they really get into the weight room is right now. That's the most important part about it right now. The whole team is together. They're working together and they're all working as a team.”
During a recent visit to the Turlock High weight room, the varsity players strolled in after numerous running and passing drills near the school's softball field and several feet from the construction that's going on at Joe Debely Stadium, which will look all shiny and new by the time Turlock's first home game rolls around on Sept. 3. The players looked tired, but ready to work.
Near one of the doors hung a piece of paper that told the players what to do for the day.
“What we're trying to do every day is instill in the kids that it's important to be here,” said wide receivers coach Vince Zipser, who also supervises the weight room. When he was playing for Turlock back in 2002, he remembers hitting the weights on a daily basis. That piece of information gives this season's Bulldogs some perspective, knowing that they have a coach who went through similar summer workouts.
Zipser makes sure each player goes through the sets and reps, and even assists the teenagers when they're having trouble with a particular exercise. Recently, he had to raise his voice — which is a common practice among football coaches, a way to get through the boys — to make sure the players complete their task.
It's a process, but it gets done.
Of course, this process wasn't invented by the storied Turlock program. Pitman, Hilmar, Denair and Turlock Christian hit the weight room, too. But the Bulldogs are the ones who are looking to shake off a winless season.
For them, Aug. 27 can't come soon enough.
“We've been working out since November, and we haven't stopped,” said senior Michael Nissan.
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