Alvarez football

Alvarez (3-7, 1-5)
 Anytime you've got an all-leaguer on both sides of the ball back, and your leading tackler from last season, you've got parts to work with.
 It's not just hope that the Eagles are clinging too in Brad Mendes' second season as head coach. The look around practice was filled with energy and enthusiasm.
 The growing pains with Mendes are gone. Restructuring the program is complete. This is a unit that believes it can return to the postseason.
 "We have a higher level of focus and we have bigger goals,'' linebacker Ernesto Portillo said. "The expectation is playoffs.''
 The culture Mendes preached about last season is in place. There's been an attitude adjustment at Alvarez in terms of discipline and character on and off the field.
"When I got here, I was told kids won't show up to off-season workouts,'' Mendes said. "I had 50 plus kids all summer in the weight room. We've created a culture where kids want to be a part of it.''
 Will that translate to wins in the rugged Gabilan Division?
 "It's going to come down to the little things,'' Mendes said. "What I have noticed is we're getting so much more out of practice. The maturity is much better."
 At the top of Mendes' list is shoring up the defense, which allowed over 30 points a game last fall -- a number that shot up to 39.8 points in Alvarez's seven losses.
 The return of Portillo and his team leading 85 tackles from last fall will help, along with all-leaguer Michael Ramirez, who had two picks, one fumble recovery and 60 tackles.
 "We should have adapted to the system sooner last year,'' Portillo said. "But it was a lack of maturity on a lot of us. We were a young group.''
 Portillo noticed a change in attitude the minute last year's final game ended and the realization was that the Eagles were missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.
 "I could see it in all the juniors eyes,'' Portillo said. "I looked around at my teammates. The level of determination was already present.''
 Ramirez, one of only two players in the Gabilan to earn all-league honors on offense and defense last year, will be the teams primary back, having rushed for nearly 800 yards and seven touchdowns last fall.
 Lining up behind center at quarterback will be two-time all-state wrestler Matt Martinez, who rushed for a team high nine touchdowns while tossing four scoring strikes.
 "He's a threat for us,'' Mendes said. "Matt brings a lot of toughness from wrestling. He won't check out.''
 A summer together should help build chemistry between Martinez and receiver Isaiah Coria, who caught 24 passes for the Eagles.
 "It will help just focusing at quarterback,'' said Martinez, who came up as a sophomore two years ago to be a linebacker. "A lot of last year was learning on the fly.''
 What the Eagles can't afford is being outscored 105-20 in the third quarter, which took them out of a lot of games in the second half.
 Playing in arguably the second strongest league in the section means there are no creampuffs for a program looking for a bounce back season.
 The additions in the Gabilan Division this fall have three league champions from last season and six teams that reached the postseason.
 Grabbing one of those top five automatic postseason spots means knocking off a playoff program from last season. That's the objective and expectation this season.
 "Everything was new last year,'' Mendes said. "This year we're able to roll with it. We have depth up and down the board. We're maneuvering bodies around. We have good vibes.''

No comments: