Foothill League football teams ready to put on pads

Valencia's Mitchell Torres (right) tries to break free from a defender at the Rams 11-on passing tournament at El Camino College earlier this summer. Haley Sawyer/The Signal
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Football is the first of all the fall sports to begin practices, and while all Foothill League teams are excited to have started camp, there’s one thing players and coaches are even more eager for: practicing in pads.

“The big thing is (when) you get to this point is you desperately want to see what your kids will be like in pads,” said Valencia coach Larry Muir. “It’s such a transition from, you’ve done all this work in spring and summer and passing tournaments and all the things that you’ve done and now you’re getting to that point where, okay, what are we going to be like in pads?”

CIF-Southern Section rules determine when players can don pads in an attempt to keep the sport safe and build up suspense as an unintended consequence.

In 2018, the CIF-SS enacted a summer dead period policy that instructed schools to choose, at their own discretion, a three-week time frame in which no practices will be held.

Aside from the dead period rule, the CIF-SS also determined start dates for physical conditioning practices, thus creating a “Week 00.” Teams that have Week 0 games, or games that start the first week of the preleague season, started practice on July 29.

Teams that have Week 1 games that take place the second week of the preleague season can begin on Aug. 5.

In the Foothill League, all teams started on July 29 except for Valencia, which doesn’t have a game until Aug. 30, a road game against Arcadia at 7 p.m.

The first week of camp is non-contact with no tackling or blocking and involves mostly working on physical technique and learning plays. The CIF-SS Blue Book states that the only equipment used can be football shoes, helmets and footballs.

During this time, it can be difficult for coaches to fully evaluate their teams and decide on starting lineups.

“We have quite a few bodies out here so until we get pads on and start evaluating from that perspective, it’s always a challenge because every spring and summer there is no contact so guys can look great but as soon as pads come on things can change,” said Saugus coach Jason Bornn. “Guys could struggle in spring and summer but then when they put pads on, they start to shine. It happens every year.”

Hart strength and conditioning coach Dave Padilla also serves as the Indians’ defensive line coach and has struck a balance in the window between the physical conditioning period and pads.

“What I coach is getting them to see their explosiveness,” Padilla said. “It’s all about explosiveness and just to see how that transfers into their getting off the ball and changing direction and we’ve done that a little bit on the field.

“Once we get the pads on, then its whole different ball game and they’re going to work with the weight on them and the change of direction becomes a little different, but we’ll work it in.”

When the pads go on and full-contact practices begin, teams can look a lot different. It’s how they respond to the physicality that will determine just how strong a team will be once the season begins.

“I like this group they work hard and they’ve done a really good job as far as the offseason and the things that we’ve done,” Muir said. “But now it’s that transition to the pads on next Monday. Can we be physical, can we still play fast when we’ve got pads on and that kind of thing. That’s going to be a big thing for us.”

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