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Shorthanded Coyotes face tough challenge in 7-on-7 football
Denair High coach Therion Gregory throws the ball during his team’s 7-on-7 football session against Hughson High on Thursday afternoon. With no quarterbacks available, Gregory had to fill in. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
HUGHSON — Therion Gregory jogged to the sidelines of the Hughson High football stadium, and took a couple sips of water. He looked back at the field and didn’t see very much purple.
His Denair High football team was shorthanded during Thursday afternoon’s 7-on-7 football session. He took another sip and looked out to the parking lot. “I’m waiting on my quarterback,” he said. “And he’s my second-string quarterback.” He waited a little longer but later found out Jacob Wagner had to attend a function.
The expected starter, Codee Watts, was on vacation.
It wasn’t ideal for the Coyotes to play like this, but they weren’t going to waste their last day of summer workouts — conditioning starts Aug. 17 — without taking advantage of the fact that the Hughson High players were ready to play. So Gregory moonlighted as the quarterback.
It was the start of an interesting afternoon.
As in any other 7-on-7 football session, scores weren’t taken.
But the Coyotes were able to get some good reps in. They were able to run their routes and make a few catches while Gregory threw. (He has done this before, as he usually fills in during practice when the quarterback isn’t available, though he prefers not to since it’s tough to pass and coach at the same time.) And they were able to play defense against a strong football program like the Huskies, who had about two dozens players ready to go.
The Denair players had a tough time. There were only nine of them in attendance, including Jose Galvan, Dylan Souza, Brian Willis, Craig Miller, Tyler Sanders, Mitchell Hilton, Mitchell Day, Nick LaFrancis and Eric Thornton — who all looked exhausted after the 90-minute session, as some retreated for shade while others took their time sitting on the grass before packing up and leaving.
Thursday’s action almost didn’t happen. Gregory said it was a last-minute thing. This was the eighth time the Coyotes had participated in 7-on-7 football, with half of them coming against the Huskies; the other challenger was Turlock Christian High.
Usually, the Coyotes would have more players available, allowing them to work on different schemes and routes. In those sessions, Gregory said his team was successful.
Even with being shorthanded, Gregory didn’t want to do anything drastic — like shifting a receiver to the quarterback position, which would throw off the Coyotes’ preparation for the upcoming season. He wanted his players to stick to what they know. The coach believes his squad can do impressive things, considering the fact that they return 12 starters, all of them remembering the almost-had-it games.
Denair went 2-8 in 2008, but Gregory said about half of the losses could have been different.
The Coyotes could make a difference this season, he added, especially with a group of senior linemen who are more experienced and physically more mature.
“This year, everyone has the team concept down,” Gregory said.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.