Summer football drills are under way at Gustine High, where both varsity and frosh-soph teams are gearing up for the season that is approaching fast and right around the corner.
Head Coach Ronnie LaBry and his group of assistant coaches guide the team in conditioning drills which includes work in the weight room for two hours followed by field activities four afternoons a week.
The summer program is not mandatory, LaBry noted, but for first-year freshmen it helps to be there all the time.
The number of players participating in the summer drills is up from past years, he said, but the Reds are also welcoming a number of new, inexperienced players.
“This year it is going to take just a little bit longer than it has in the past just because we have so many new kids coming in,” said LaBry.
Experienced players are stepping up already as leaders as they mentor the younger team members.
“What helps a lot is the upperclassmen are actually being leaders and teachers out there,” LaBry told Mattos Newspapers. “That is what I have been trying to get guys to do. If you see the problem, fix the problem.”
Through the summer program, LaBry commented, the Reds will focus on instilling fundamentals first and then putting in the X’s and O’s of the offensive and defensive schemes.
While a young team now, the Reds are solid with their offensive and defensive lines and have their second-year quarterback Jonathan Martin returning.
All other positions are up for grabs, he said.
In contrast to past years, when the Reds had the luxury of an established go-to running back, that position and others are wide open as the summer drills begin.
“This is the first year where we’re looking for that guy. Somebody needs to be that guy,” said LaBry.
Gustine may not be as run-reliant as in past years, he added.
“Our offense is run-heavy, but I think that this year with Martin we can open it up a little bit,” LaBry shared.
The freshmen who played varsity last year, including five in the playoffs, put in their work during the summer while maturing and developing an understanding of the game.
“If you are working hard and giving me everything you have at practice, it will show at game day. That’s what we’re looking for,” said LaBry.
The overall premise for the Reds during this summer is working on the fundamentals, and as they approach the end of summer drills, Coach LaBry said, they want to have the entire play book in.
Then when they return from the mandatory dead period in early August, players can work on fine-tuning rather than implementing wholesale systems.