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‘Return to normalcy’: La Jolla’s high school football teams get ready for new season

La Jolla High and The Bishop's School go at it last year. They'll match up again in this season's opener Thursday, Aug. 18.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After playing spring and fall seasons last year, having a full offseason has been a big boost, coaches say.

In preparation for the new season that starts this week, the football players who will wear the emblems of La Jolla high schools made the most of their offseason. Mostly because they actually had an offseason.

The result is that players are stronger, more competitive and more knowledgeable about the game, according to coaches from La Jolla High School, The Bishop’s School and La Jolla Country Day School.

Restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic led to a five-game spring season and a full fall season in 2021, leaving little time in between to prepare.

Tyler Hales, head coach of the La Jolla Country Day Torreys, said the altered schedule was “a challenge.”

“The biggest thing the players were excited about this year was actually having an offseason,” Hales said. “The juniors especially have been able to work in the weight room during the offseason. We’ve seen a lot of players who have been committed and have gotten a lot stronger and faster, so for me, that signals the return to normalcy. The guys had the chance to get stronger but come back fresh.”

Hales said the team has a “fun nucleus” of sophomores and juniors, all fighting for their time on the field.

“We have a lot of positions up in the air as far as ... guys competing for starting roles,” Hales said.

Leading the pack is a small group of seniors, who collectively came up with the motto “Whatever it takes” to guide the team through the season.

“Coming up with the motto is something the seniors get to do every year. For us, ‘Whatever it takes’ means everyone is going to do everything they can to get better at practice and win,” Hales said. “They have been bringing good leadership and living that motto.”

Country Day went 7-5 last season and advanced to the CIF San Diego Section Division IV quarterfinals.

La Jolla Country Day's Jaden Mangini carries the ball against Bishop's last season. The teams will meet this year Oct. 7.
La Jolla Country Day’s Jaden Mangini carries the ball against Bishop’s last season. The teams will meet this year on Friday, Oct. 7.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Country Day School)

At The Bishop’s School, coach Shane Walton said his players also focused on strength and conditioning during the offseason so they could concentrate on strategy during the regular season.

“That is going to be a significant advantage for us this year,” Walton said. “Our guys worked out all winter and summer. They were disciplined, and we didn’t have that last year.”

He said this year’s Knights are a “well-balanced team” with “a lot more returning starters than the year before,” though last season’s 8-3 team was “one of the better teams we have had.”

Some of the younger players didn’t get as much field time. Now, as juniors and seniors, they’re ready to get off the sidelines.

“This is going to be their year to grow because they have been in the program for all four years. They are experienced,” Walton said. “We have a lot of pretty good athletes that know the system. They know what we are asking them to do. Last year, they didn’t know the ins and outs of defense, whereas this year we can run all defenses. They are able to do more and prepare for more.”

Bishop’s opens this season on Thursday, Aug. 18, with the “Battle for Pearl Street” against crosstown rival La Jolla High School.

“It’s always a fun game,” Walton said. “They are well-coached and a lot of the guys know each other. It is a fun way to start the season. We enjoy it.”

La Jolla High coach Tyler Roach agrees.

“It’s always fun,” he said. “They are our significant rivals and there is always pent-up energy on both sides. We finally beat them last year when they had our number the previous years, so we want to defend the title. Energy is going to be high; optimism is high.”

During the offseason, he added, everyone took the opportunity to “catch our breath and unwind.”

“This was our first real offseason in a few years,” Roach said. “At the start of it, we were burnt out and needed to take a minute before we put in the work. But in that time, they came together as a team, and it has been really productive. Now the fun begins. We get to go to work.”

Last fall, the Vikings struggled in the regular season but rallied to advance to the CIF San Diego Division II championship game before losing to Scripps Ranch.

While Roach acknowledges that the Vikings “don’t have the big-name, elite guys we had in the past,” this year’s team is out to prove itself.

“We want to show that we’re still here and going to compete at a high level,” he said. “We told them we have to bring our ‘A’ game day in and day out. It took some time for the younger guys to understand that, so they are competing and pushing each other in practice. They are starting to see what it takes to get out under the lights.”

Schedules

These varsity football schedules for La Jolla High School, The Bishop’s School and La Jolla Country Day School are based on information available by the La Jolla Light’s deadline. All games are at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

La Jolla High
750 Nautilus St.

Aug. 18: Home vs. Bishop’s

Aug. 26: Away vs. Scripps Ranch

Sept. 2: Home vs. El Capitan

Sept. 9: Home vs. Del Norte

Sept. 16: Home vs. Morse

Sept. 23: Away vs. Point Loma

Sept. 30: Home vs. San Diego

Oct. 7: Away vs. Patrick Henry

Oct. 21: Home vs. Christian

Oct. 28: Away vs. Mira Mesa

Bishop’s
Home games will be played at La Jolla High School.

Aug. 18: Away vs. La Jolla High

Aug. 26: Home vs. Christian

Sept. 2: Away vs. Beverly Hills

Sept. 10: Home vs. Mountain Empire

Sept. 23: Away vs. University City

Oct. 1: Home vs. Francis Parker

Oct. 7: Away vs. La Jolla Country Day

Oct. 14: Away vs. Escondido Charter

Oct. 21: Away vs. Orange Glen

Oct. 28: Home vs. Santa Fe Christian

La Jolla Country Day
9490 Genesee Ave.

Aug. 20: Home vs. Chula Vista

Aug. 26: Away vs. Crawford

Sept. 3: Away vs. Classical Academy

Sept. 9: Home vs. Escondido Charter

Sept. 16: Away vs. Coronado

Sept. 30: Home vs. Orange Glen

Oct. 7: Home vs. Bishop’s

Oct. 14: Home vs. Mountain Empire

Oct. 22: Away vs. Santa Fe Christian, noon

Oct. 28: Away vs. Francis Parker ◆