By Pat Sherman
red and black
make their way back to the football field at La Jolla High, they could well be making their way back to the football program’s glory days — if the efforts and vision of new head football coach Jason Carter pay off.
“What I’m trying to do is just rebuild La Jolla High football,” said Carter, who played college ball at Texas A&M and went on to play in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers. “My understanding is that (La Jolla High’s football program) used to be pretty good back in the ’90s. I think we have some talent at the school to return La Jolla High back to where it needs to be. What we’re bringing in is a totally different system.”
Carrying their weight
Foremost, that new system involves revamping the Vikings’ offensive strategy and strengthening its line of scrimmage. When Carter was hired in March, one of the first things he did was pore over footage of games.
“It was obvious that they were losing the line of scrimmage,” said Carter, 30, who spent the prior season as an offensive coordinator at La Jolla Country Day. “If you lose the line of scrimmage, it’s obvious you’re not lifting enough weights.”
So Carter and his staff and players redid the school’s weight room, bringing in better weights and more platforms to do squats and clean and jerks, for increased leg strength.
Carter said he also relies heavily on the 14 coaches working under him to get the best out of the school’s freshman, junior varsity and varsity football players.
“All the coaches I’ve hired have experience playing in college, and a few of them played at the NFL level,” Carter said. “We have a great coaching staff that understands the game of football, but understands and shares my vision as well.”
Collin Rugg, the Vikings’ varsity quarterback, said Coach Carter’s strategy involves intense training and quick movement on the field. “It’s a totally different offensive team than last year,” said Collin, 16.
While last year the team employed the “Wing-T” offense (more of a running style), this year the team will be focusing on a spread formation (similar to that employed by the University of Oregon, with no huddles and heavy passing).
Collin’s father, Scott Rugg, said that while Coach Carter seems “pretty low key” off the field, “he’s a very engaged coach, very excitable, meaning when the players do something really, really well, he kind of jumps up and down and celebrates with them. He’s a younger coach, so he has a lot of new ideas.”
Varsity linebacker Bret Schuman, 17, added that Coach Carter is “installing a sophisticated offense and defense into the program,” in addition to a new mentality. “In the past it was our goal just to make playoffs and under coach Carter we expect to win the championship,” Bret said, noting that Carter works to mine each players’ potential while stressing safety with lessons gleaned from his own experience in the NFL.
La Jolla High footballers spent time over the summer bonding with their teammates and coaches during movie and bowling excursions, and a spring showcase game for parents, which ended with a barbeque. It’s something Carter believes is crucial to the program’s success.
“We spend a lot of time with our guys, hanging out … (so) that they’ll know we’re family,” he said. “When I was playing it was always about trusting the guy next to you. If you don’t hang out with that guy, if you don’t talk to that guy, you’re not going to trust him. The more we hang out, the better off we’ll be.”
Naturally, the former NFLer demands discipline from his players — both on and off the field. “These kids are very receptive,” Carter said. “You can see it in their eyes that they want to win.”
Carter said he doesn’t sugarcoat things. “It comes down to (whether) you’re doing your individual job and what you’ve been coached to do, and staying consistent with it,” he said. “That discipline is what we hang our hats on at the end of the day — the kids knowing that they’re supposed to do exactly what they’re supposed to do — on the field, off the field, in the classroom, they’ve got to do what we’ve asked them to do. It’s very simple. If you don’t do it, then you don’t play.”
Players will return to their weekday regimen of practice, weight training and on-field cardio exercises on Aug. 5.
At the end of the day, Carter said, it’s all about his guys having a good time while striving to do their best.
“I’m truly in it just for the love of the game, for the kids, to make better young men and rebuild the program,” he said. “I’m not going to claim what we’re going to do. … What I will say is you will see a different La Jolla High team than what you’ve seen in the past — I will guarantee that. And we’ll be competitive in every game. We’ll take it one game at a time.”
Coming next week:
An interview with new La Jolla High School Athletic Director
La Jolla High Varsity Football Schedule 2013
Aug. 17 9 a.m. Black & White Scrimmage at La Jolla High
Aug. 23 10 a.m. Country Day Scrimmage at Country Day
Aug. 30 7 p.m. Mt. Carmel at Mt. Carmel
Sept. 6 7 p.m. San Marcos at San Marcos
Sept. 13 7 p.m. Valley Center at La Jolla High
Sept. 20 7 p.m. Santa Fe Christian at La Jolla High
Oct. 4 6:30 p.m. Coronado (Homecoming) at La Jolla High
Oct. 11 6:30 p.m. University City at University City
Oct. 18 6:30 p.m. Point Loma at La Jolla High
Oct. 25 6:30 p.m. Mission Bay (Senior Night) at La Jolla High
Nov. 1 6:30 p.m. Madison at Madison
Nov. 8 6:30 p.m. Kearny at Kearny