High school football: La Jolla teams are looking to make upcoming season ‘our time’
With the 2023 schedule beginning Friday, Aug. 18, La Jolla High, Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day tackle different challenges in striking a winning balance.
Every year, the La Jolla Country Day School football team picks a motto to serve as motivation for the coming season. To coach Tyler Hales, this year’s motto — “Our time” — couldn’t be more appropriate.
The Torreys will be led by “a really good group of experienced upperclassmen” that have been with the program since their freshman year, which Hales said hasn’t happened since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re pretty excited,” he said. “Every position, across the board, has a strong guy there.”
So much so that final decisions on who will take what position haven’t been made, though the season starts Friday, Aug. 18. “There are different positions in which we could place any number of players,” Hales said. “We’re going to see who stands out in the coming weeks and let things come together.”
This group of players in particular wants this to be a season to remember, given that many of them weren’t able to play during their underclassmen years because of pandemic restrictions, Hales said. And the team wants to go further than last season, which ended with a loss in the CIF San Diego Section quarterfinals.
All three of La Jolla’s high school varsity football teams competed in the quarterfinals of the 2022 section playoffs, but only The Bishop’s School came away with a win. La Jolla High lost 56-25 against Granite Hills of El Cajon, and La Jolla Country Day fell at home, 27-21, to Palo Verde of Blythe.
Bishop’s lost in the semifinals to University City 24-20.
“That loss [to Palo Verde] was tough for us,” Hales said. “The guys are motivated to not end the year that way again this season. So when we started practice, the guys wanted to move things along quicker than they have in past years. It’s been an exciting start to see guys come in stronger and bigger and push each other. We hope that will be a staple of what we’ll do this year.”
To help make the season even more memorable, the team will travel to Las Vegas on Sept. 1 to play against Lake Mead Christian Academy of Henderson, Nev. Las Vegas also is where Country Day alumna Kelsey Plum plays for the Aces of the Women’s National Basketball Association. Hales said Plum will attend the game and conduct the coin toss to start it.
A high priority for the Torreys is winning the title in the seven-team Coastal League, which also includes Bishop’s.
“We have six really hard games during which we have to be consistent and battle,” Hales said. “This group is ready to do that.”
La Jolla High
The La Jolla High School Vikings also have their eyes on a prize — the trophy for winning the “Battle for Pearl Street.” The Vikings will open their season Aug. 18 against local rival Bishop’s. The winner will get the Pearl Street trophy that looks like a street sign, signifying the road that divides the two schools.
In last year’s meeting, Bishop’s claimed a 28-7 victory, and La Jolla coach Tyler Roach said “we want it back.”
The Vikings, who play in the five-team Eastern League, hope a win in the Battle for Pearl Street will set the tone for the season. “Each year takes a different course of how a team comes together,” Roach said. “We have a good mix of key seniors, strong juniors and some sophomores that are working well together. We have the veterans that know what they’re doing and the younger guys that want to get under the lights.”
He acknowledged that the team’s defense is “young up front,” but the Vikings plan to play aggressively nonetheless.
In 2019, La Jolla made it to the CIF state finals, then went undefeated in the pandemic-delayed and -truncated 2020 season before a full schedule in 2021 ended with a loss in the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship game.
“We’ve been talking a lot about being the hunter or being hunted,” Roach said. “Those teams [of 2020 and 2021] had this chip on their shoulder and wanted to get out and hunt. Once we had that success [in 2019], the younger guys got a little full of themselves and then teams circled you on the calendar and were hunting you.”
Looking to strike a balance with this year’s team, “my intent is to re-create that chip on their shoulder and let them know they have something to prove,” Roach said. “Embracing that mindset is going to be key.”
The Bishop’s School
The Bishop’s School Knights also are looking to strike a balance — between encouraging and pushing their relatively young team, said coach Shane Walton.
“We graduated a lot of our seniors last year, and we need to fill that void,” he said. “We had tremendous skill and speed last year that all [came from] seniors. So we’re still figuring out who this team is, and they are doing the same. One day they will click. ... As soon as they get more consistent, they are going to be a good team.”
To help the Knights get there, Walton is looking to the five coaches who are Bishop’s alumni. “They understand how important the game is and the culture we have here,” Walton said. “When the players see the coaches that are alumni, they see what it means to represent the team and the program that came before them.”
The coaching staff has a plan “to encourage but push these kids to success,” Walton said. “Sometimes you encourage too much or push too much, so we have to find the balance of what we need, what to do and how to get there.”
Among the players Walton will be relying on are four returning starters and some who have been on the team but had to get over “their growing pains” to build their confidence on the field, he said.
Varsity football schedules for La Jolla High, Bishop’s and La Jolla Country Day schools. All games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
• La Jolla High
750 Nautilus St.
Aug. 18: Home vs. Bishop’s
Aug. 25: Home vs. Scripps Ranch
Sept. 1: Away vs. El Capitan
Sept. 8: Home vs. Rancho Bernardo
Sept. 15: Away vs. Mission Bay
Sept. 29: Home vs. Mira Mesa
Oct. 6: Away vs. Point Loma
Oct. 13: Home vs. Morse
Oct. 20: Away vs. Patrick Henry
Oct. 28: Away vs. Christian
Home games are played at La Jolla High School.
Aug. 18: Away vs. La Jolla High
Aug. 26: Home vs. Christian
Sept. 1: Home vs. Bishop Garcia Diego
Sept. 15: Away vs. Mount Miguel
Sept. 22: Away vs. Classical Academy
Sept. 30: Home vs. La Jolla Country Day
Oct. 6: Home vs. Escondido Charter
Oct. 14: Home vs. Army and Navy Academy
Oct. 20: Away vs. Francis Parker
Oct. 27: Vs. Santa Fe Christian (location to be determined)
• La Jolla Country Day
9490 Genesee Ave.
Aug. 18: Away vs. Chula Vista (6:30 p.m.)
Aug. 25: Home vs. Crawford
Sept. 1: Away vs. Lake Mead Christian Academy (Las Vegas)
Sept. 8: Home vs. Coronado
Sept. 14: Away vs. Escondido Charter
Sept. 22: Home vs. Army and Navy Academy
Sept. 30: Away vs. Bishop’s
Oct. 13: Home vs. Santa Fe Christian
Oct. 20: Vs. Classical Academy (location to be determined)
Oct. 27: Home vs. Francis Parker ◆
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