Did somebody say football? The pigskin’s in play around town as La Jolla’s three high school teams practice for their season openers. The Light tracked down their coaches for some pre-season predictions.
La Jolla High School Vikings
The young squad that makes up the La Jolla High School varsity football team (after the senior-loaded team of last year that made it to the CIF quarterfinals) is, according to Head Coach Tyler Roach, excited to write their own chapter in the Vikings’ history books.
“Last year was senior-heavy, this year we’re an energetic squad, passionate, committed; they were back-ups or JV last year, role-type players. They aren’t a young team, just inexperienced,” Coach Roach said. “On the field, we have the speed on defense, and skilled position players on offense. We want to get those guys out there.”
La Jolla’s last season ended 7-5 overall and 3-1 in the league. It ended abruptly in the CIF quarterfinals, when the Vikings lost against The Bishop’s School Knights. “What’s interesting is that the guys don’t talk about that a lot. When you end the season like that — especially getting beat by the cross-town rivals — it leaves a sour taste. But there are not a lot of returning starters, so they’re not hung up on that. They are excited to write their chapter and hungry to play.”
As far as the games they’re particularly excited to play, Roach said the guys are looking forward to the Aug. 25 away match against Hilltop High School. “They beat us last year in a close game, so the boys have that day (on their calendars) circled. Then we play La Jolla Country Day (Sept. 1), and my guys are excited for the rivalry.”
This year marks a return to the Vikings for Coach Roach and his first year as varsity head coach, having made a cross-town migration from La Jolla Country Day. During the 2016 season, he led the Torrey defensive line to a CIF title, Southern California section championship, and CIF California state runner-up finish. Prior to that, Coach Roach spent three years as the assistant head coach and varsity offensive coordinator at La Jolla High School.
The Bishop’s School Knights
Last year, the Knights made it all the way through San Diego CIF but lost at the State championship level. And the now senior-dense team is using that very recent memory to motivate them this season.
“This year, more than any season I’ve had in nine years, is going to be senior led,” Coach Joel Allen said. “We have 11 seniors on the team, most of whom have been playing for four years. They won championships in the past, some were on the team when they won a championship as freshmen, and many were on the team when we won last year. But this year, they aren’t the supporting cast, they are the leaders,”
He said having the championship in the rear-view mirror, “Creates mental excitement that you can’t fabricate” and that the players use the possibility of another championship to keep going “when the practices are hard and the days are long.”
As far as this year’s strengths, Allen said the defense is stronger, whereas last year the offense was “incredible,” and “while we expect to win the games, it might not be with a score of 28-0 ... more like 21-14.”
The coach said the Knights are looking forward to the season-opening game Aug. 25 against Grossmont High School, “the best opponent we’ve played against.”
“It’s a huge public school with a record of being a successful team,” he added. “We have 28 guys out there, they have 28 seniors and probably 150 kids in their program. … On strategy, we knew we needed to be 100-percent healthy and prepared. We know Week 1 at Snap 1, we’ll be as healthy as we’ll be. Once you get into it, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
There are three home games this season, and Bishop’s plays on the La Jolla High School field, 750 Nautilus St.
La Jolla Country Day Torreys
Having lost some high-profile seniors and coaching leadership from last year, the La Jolla Country Day School Torreys football program is in transition this year.
Former Coach Tyler Roach transferred to La Jolla High School and the team coordinator of 11 years moved over to the school’s baseball program. Under their leadership and with high numbers of seniors, the Torreys made it to the State level of CIF, but lost at the very end.
“Luckily, we have some really passionate young coaches who stepped up and are doing a really good job,” Coach Tyler Hales said. “They have big shoes to fill, but they have been doing great. We also graduated a lot of players from last year, but we have a lot of new guys working hard and competing. From the get-go, we’re pretty young and pretty experienced, but they have the work ethic. It’s fantastic. They push each other.
“Some people aren’t expecting us to do as well this year, given the guys we lost, which has motivated the players to show they can get back to CIF.”
He said the players are eager to prove themselves and have an “overall athleticism” to them. Hales has been with the football program for 12 years, 11 years on the coaching staff and four years as head coach. During his tenure, the team broke every San Diego passing record, by attempting more passes than any team in California.
This season, eyeing the recent move by Tyler Roach, Hales wants to come up with a rivalry trophy, “maybe the ‘Best of La Jolla’ ” he joked. (Maybe a battle of the Tylers?) “We just want to have a good game against La Jolla High this season. We’re excited.”
The first game is an away game against Rancho Christian High School, which won the CIF State Championships last year. “We’ll see what they will bring to the table. … We have some good tests to see where this young team is going to go. Every game is a big game for us.”