The team bus will be a lot more crowded this year for the Chowchilla High School football team. With the Redskins breaking camp last year with just 19 players, everybody had his own seat on the bus.
Chowchilla will open this season with 41 players.
“We have to sit in twos,” Redskins coach Alex Pittz said. “I might have to actually tell them to be quiet.”
The roster seems supersized after Chowchilla dressed as few as 17 players for games last year. The extra bodies give the Redskins much-needed depth.
Despite the small roster, Chowchilla won six games last year and made the playoffs. The problem was fatigue. With so many players logging heavy minutes going both ways, the Redskins ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins outscored their opponents in every quarter except the fourth last year.
WE WANT A MORE SMASH-MOUTH, PUNISHING RUNNING ATTACK. WE’RE GOING BACK TO OUR ROOTS.
Chowchilla coach Alez Pittz
“We’re going to have more subs, which is going to help up play better in the fourth quarter,” senior Anthony Stewart said. “It was pretty tough last year. Nobody had any energy to do anything, especially going both ways.”
The Redskins played short-handed last year after Pittz instituted new requirements for participants in the program.
Starting in February, players had to lift weights Mondays through Thursdays at 7 a.m. For those struggling to make the minimum 2.1 grade-point average needed to participate in athletics, there were mandatory study hall sessions.
“We felt like we had character issues, so we cleaned house,” Pittz said. “We revamped everything we do from what we do in the weight room, to what we lift and how we lift. We paid the price, playing with 17 players last year. We kept the exact same rules, and we have 41 this year.”
The changes were made to get dedicated players.
“All we ask is that you’re responsible, committed and you’re bought in,” Pittz said. “We’ve never cut anyone because of ability. The only time kids get cut is because they don’t show up enough or they don’t meet the attitude and effort requirements.”
The hope is all the time in the weight room will help as the Redskins transition back to focusing on a power running game. Chowchilla made deep playoff runs in the Scott Donegan and John Henson eras using the double-wing offense in the 2000s.
The Redskins are switching their offense from the shotgun wing-T they’ve used in recent years to a shotgun double wing.
“We’ve got to get back to the power running game with the personnel we have,” Pittz said. “We’re simplifying the offense considerably. We want to get back to running downhill. We want a more smash-mouth, punishing running attack. We’re going back to our roots.”
WE’RE GOING TO HAVE MORE SUBS, WHICH IS GOING TO HELP UP PLAY BETTER IN THE FOURTH QUARTER.
Chowchilla running back Anthony Stewart
The rushing attack will feature a rare four-year varsity player in Stewart, who ran for 1,472 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. At 5-foot-11 and 179 pounds, he has the power and speed to become one of the top backs in the Central Section.
“The first word that comes to mind is ‘special,’” Pittz said. “He’s possibly the most talented kid I’ve ever coached. He’s received a little more exposure with the 7-on-7 with the SWAG (Students With Aspiring Goals) team in Merced. He’s a stud. He’s gifted athletically. He’s a quiet leader. He doesn’t like to be super vocal. He likes to go about his business.”
The running game also will feature Danny Chavez and Alex Gutierrez and a physical offensive line led by right tackle Gary Nieuwkoop and right guard Gabe Sanchez.
“We’re hoping the changes we’ve made the last two years will benefit us,” Pittz said. “It’s going to come down to the O-line having the right mindset. The ability is there. The strength is there. Now we have to wait and see if they can go out and punish people.”
|Chowchilla News Day
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