Like most places in the Central Valley last week, Turlock was hit with a relentless heat wave with the temperatures reaching triple digits. Luckily for the Pitman High football team, the Pride had the week off.
When they returned this week to continue their offseason workouts, the players and coaches were granted weather conditions attuned to a spring day: much cooler temperatures with winds blowing behind their backs.
But that doesn’t mean the Pride can relax.
Pitman’s football season begins Aug. 26 against Modesto High, but the Pride know they have a lot of work left to do. They still have their early morning practices and their 7-on-7 scrimmages on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They’re also learning to adapt to each other, especially knowing that the group is heavy with juniors. Pitman returns just three starters — quarterback AJ Derr, running back Andy Mendez and linebacker Dakota Selfridge — to this year’s roster.
Even so, the Pride expect another successful run. Since its inception, the football program has produced a 47-23 overall record.
Brandon Harris is entering his sixth season as head coach and the school is entering its 10th year of existence. Pitman is coming off another playoff season, as the Pride finished 7-4 overall and lost to Granite Bay High in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I postseason.
“They truly want to have a good season,” said Harris, whose Pride are 34-18 under his guidance with no losing seasons.
There’s little worry about this group, even if it’s filled with youth. Harris says the boys are a determined, caring group with a high football IQ. He also likes the fact that they get down to business as soon as they step on their school’s practice field.
“This is a very dedicated group and they care,” Harris said. “They really, really care. I think you can do a lot of good things when you have guys who care.”
Naturally, some of the leaders in the group are the returning starters, whose duty includes reminding their teammates that this is no longer the junior varsity level. They tell them the varsity workouts are much more difficult, with new strength and conditioning workouts the Pride picked up after consulting with an NFL team and a coach for an Australian rugby team, Harris said.
Just like a big brother, the returning starters don’t let their teammates forget their importance.
“There’s definitely some pressure being in a senior leadership role,” Selfridge said. “You have to make sure they’re ready from being JV players to stronger, faster and more competitive varsity players who are able to play on Friday nights.”
At the same time, the Pride say they’re a close group.
“We have trust for one another,” Derr pointed out. “We’re pretty much one brotherhood.”
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