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Back on the gridiron

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LAHS football team returns to the practice field to begin 2017 season

By Phil Scherer

This season, the Los Alamos Hilltopper football team is all about family.

For them, it signifies more than just the word prominently displayed across the top of their practice gear. It is the key to putting together a successful year.

“We are a family,” head coach Garett Williams told his team following their practice at Sullivan Field Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t about me and it isn’t about you. That’s what makes this such a great game, because you can’t do it alone.”

After a summer’s worth of preparation, the Hilltoppers came together this week for what they hope will be a long and successful season.

However, the team entered its first week of official practices with many questions that needed to be answered and unity that needed to be built.

“Right now, our expectations are to come out, work hard, develop a brotherhood and develop some team unity,”

Williams told the Albuquerque Journal earlier this summer. “The intensity and the effort is the thing we’re focusing on right now. If we put in the work, the rest is going to take care of itself.”

Developing that unity is especially important to the Hilltoppers because of the offensive system that they run – the triple option. It is an offense that requires cohesion between the quarterback, the running backs and the offensive line. If even one component is out of sync, the play is destined to fail.

Last year, the offense found its rhythm with Nick Quartieri at quarterback and Kevin Maresca as a threat both running and receiving. Both have now graduated, creating an opportunity for their younger “brothers” to fill the void.

Senior Dylan Irish will be tasked with taking over for Quartieri, who was named Los Alamos High School’s Male Athlete of the Year in May. Interestingly, Irish has never played quarterback before and has been working all summer with coach Val Gunn to perfect the nuances of the position.

Last season, he operated as a fullback in the Hilltopper offense. However, Williams sees Irish as his best overall athlete, and believes the transition will be smooth, especially in Los Alamos’ run-first attack.

Taking over the primary back duties will be junior Cade Yost, who should be given lots of running room behind an offensive line led by senior Arturo Rodriguez and junior Justin Gilbert.

Leading up to their season opener against Pojoaque Valley on Aug. 25, the team will continue working on building the strength and stamina that will be necessary to get through the taxing football season.

Throughout practice, Williams and his assistant coaches emphasize giving maximum effort at all times, not coasting through workouts.

At one point during Wednesday’s practice, the team was performing a sprint drill that required starting from a still position and sprinting to a nearby cone.

The drill is meant to engage the fast twitch muscles that will be used on every play throughout the season.

After it appeared that certain players were giving less than maximum effort in the drill, one of the coaches yelled, “Run! This is where we separate ourselves.”

There was a visible up-tick in intensity from the players following that message. They understand that their future success is on the line starting this week.

Their effort, intensity and unity will be the deciding factor this season. Whether they reach great heights as a team this season or not, they will do it as a family.