The Turlock Jr. Pride finished their inaugural season last year with more success than most programs in their first year band this season they expect there will be more ups than downs.
The Jr. Pride are already two weeks into practice and conditioning heading into their second year as an organization in the Trans Valley Youth Football League and at all four levels the coaches feel confident that they have the team needed to retain another great season.
In their inaugural year, the Turlock Jr. Pride managed to capture a playoff berth in every level possible from the Novice, JV and Varsity level, something that just doesn’t occur in most programs, but the coaches, parents and players involved know that it is more than just about winning, but rather having fun.
“All three teams went to the playoffs and it was kind of our goal to get off on the right foot and this year we are trying to figure out if we can get a couple more things going to see what level we can reach,” said Thad Moren, who coaches the Novice level.
Playing smart is another major emphasis, but the biggest thing is player safety especially considering these kids are so young that any serious injury this early on in their life could lead to a non-football future. So coaches are following the NFL Heads Up program guidelines to prevent serious injuries.
“I think the biggest thing this year is that in the offseason some of the training we attended we were able to pick up some pointers and player safety which was huge,” said Varsity head coach Mark Padilla. “Heads up football was another thing we promote and took to the next level this year. Also player awareness and letting the parents know their kids are safe out here and having a good time.”
The Jr. Pride gives all kids the opportunity to play and learn the fundamentals leading to the next level of play. One of the goals for the program is to make the transition from youth football to high school easier.
At the Varsity level, the Jr. Pride fell in the first round of the playoffs to Central Saints in a lopsided game.
“We made the playoffs but were taken out in the first round and got crushed, not a good sight,” Padilla said.
The team started out with a young group last season, but this season about 30 percent of the newcomers have never even put pads on.
“The new kids have never put on pads before and their coming along and progressing nicely. I am thinking we will have a good year, we will be alright,” Padilla said.
With a talented pool of smart players, coach Padilla will look to his heavy running offensive attack behind Jacob Partoda, Isaiah Aguilar and Hunter Musgrave.
“These kids have been around for a while and I expect them to have an awesome year this year and our offense is strong. We have a lot of depth there and we will be ok,” said Padilla. “I want to say that we have quick learners and even some of the new kids are picking on the plays very quick and they are just absorbing everything that we are throwing at them.”
JV head coach Dave Fernandes is now the main guy after coaching the Novice last season and is looking for perhaps a Super Bowl push after making the playoffs in 2013.
“This is the same team I had two years ago when we won the Super Bowl so we will see what happens this upcoming year,” said Fernandes. “I feel overall confident I think we can compete with anybody out there, but I always feel that way with whoever we have.”
There are not one or two standouts for coach Fernandes but rather he feels the balance of his squad this season will provide a strong core and a competitive team.
“Playmakers, well we have good running backs and our quarterback, and on defense were good as well. We have a really good group of kids. A lot of talent,” Fernandes said. “I have a great group of kids. There is nothing bad to say about them. I also have a great group of parents at this level. I think it will be a great season.”
First year Novice head coach Moren was an assistant last year but this season he brings his skills that he honed at Pitman since 2002 as a freshman coach into the youth with hopes of building these kids from an early age to prepare for the higher level of competition in high school.
“This year we worked a bit harder to integrate both teams a little more and the kids can learn similar terminology that they will hear at the Varsity level and when they’re freshman in high school as well,” said Moren.
The Novice squad also managed to make the postseason in 2013 but there is more than just making the playoffs for coach Moren.
“It was good to get that experience and then you know my personal feelings are that I am out there trying to teach football and I’m not worried about that playoff stuff,” Moren said. “I just want to get the kids to learn to do stuff correctly. We are trying to figure out a way to teach football the way I have been doing it at the freshman level since I’ve been here.”
At the Jr. Novice level there are no playoffs, records or stats that are recorded due to the age mark. Instead the focus at this level of play is more on the elements of the game and preparing the kids for the next level of play which is Novice.
Now with new head coach Dave Langford at the helm the team is excited to see what the new coach will bring to the table.
“We are just getting them prepared for the next level. That is the biggest thing,” said Langford. “Not a whole lot of different stuff at this level. We keep the kids working hard and lots of reps and try to get our kids in top condition so that they can play football and not be injury prone.”
The Jr. Pride have a preseason warmup Round Robbin before taking the field on Aug. 16 in their season opener against Denair at Turlock High’s Joe Debely Stadium.