Hart senior quarterback Zach Johnson throws the ball during practice at Hart High School Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

2019 Football Camp Series: Hart High School

At around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dave Padilla seemed simultaneously one of the most loved and hated coaches on the Hart football staff, at least according to the players.

“Jogging doesn’t do anything,” the strength and conditioning coach barked at the team as every player ran a 40 up the field in 90-degree weather as a way to close practice.

“I think it’s trying to get them, more than strength, it’s to get them comfortable working in an uncomfortable environment,” Padilla said.

Head coach Mike Herrington named Padilla the strength and conditioning coach over the summer because he knew Padilla had experience in the area. The hiring decision yielded benefits beyond expectations.

“I think that’s the biggest turnaround in our program,” Herrington said. “That we have that strength and conditioning coach and it’s made all the guys bigger, faster and stronger.”

Hart senior Ashton Thomas drags his toes at the sideline during practice at Hart High School Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Quarterback Zach Johnson says he gained 25 pounds of mass in the offseason. Players at every position from the secondary to the offensive line look bigger, more athletic.

Padilla estimates that he saw a 40% strength gain the first time the players maxed out in the weight room.

The weight room has turned from a venue for workouts done to pass the time to a place where players can go to improve their bodies as well as their minds.

“Now we’re actually working to get gains, get stronger, and it like, changed the mentality of the team,” said running back Taden Littleford. “It made us more motivated for this year. It brought up a spirit that I feel Hart has been lacking the last few years.”

The time and work dedicated to the weight room have raised the bar both literally and physically. With returners at just about every position, the Indians, who tied for second place in league last season, have a renewed sense of determination this season.

Hart senior Zach Johnson hands the ball off to senior Taden Littleford during practice at Hart High School Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“This year, the seniors, we set a standard,” said receiver Ashton Thomas. “Unlike last year, this year our standard is higher. It’s to go undefeated. To win league, to accomplish things that Hart hasn’t accomplished in a long time.”

Padilla, who also serves as the defensive line coach, said that the team was on board with his vision to create a stronger, faster team from the beginning. He’s coached for 15 years at various schools and said the Indians’ work ethic is incomparable to other teams he’s coached.

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Prior to Hart, Padilla coached at Chaminade, which has a football roster littered with players whose natural talent outweighs the desire to work hard. The coach said it’s a stark contrast to his current situation with the Indians.

“It was 100%, they were all in,” he said. “So that made it a lot easier for me instead of trying to, I was at Chaminade before this, so you have all the five-star guys, the guys who think they’re going to go here and there, they don’t really work for it because they have the God-given talent. These guys work hard.”

Now that offseason workouts have concluded and camp has begun, Padilla’s focus has shifted from building strength to maintaining it and preventing injury.

Hart’s improvements in the weight room as a result, on the field, will be tested on Aug. 23 when the team travels to Carlsbad for its first game of the season.

“I think the community is going to see a big difference,” Padilla said. “They’re going to see a big difference in the way they wear their uniform and they’re going to see a big difference in their confidence on the field.”

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