Flintridge Prep football eases into summer

LA CAÑADA — With a new offense to install, a new identity to mold and players still trickling in, Tuesday morning's second football practice of the summer at Flintridge Prep would have seemed a perfect time for Rebels Coach Antonio Harrison to summon his inner drill sergeant.

Yet, the fifth-year coach was calm, even relaxed at times with a group of about 35 players and that attitude seemed to rub off on his athletes.

"I come from the old school, where you got guys yelling in your face, you're running if you drop a ball and coaches are screaming at you," said Harrison, who confirmed the program will field a junior varsity squad despite a report from another league coach saying otherwise.

"Over the years, I've worked really hard to tone that down within myself and to just come to peace within myself and understand two things. One, this is just a game and two, these are kids. They need a lot more from me than just yelling."

Harrison was all over the field at the 7 a.m. practice, instructing or taking part in each drill and ended his day with a bird's eye view of the action as he filmed from atop a shipping container.

"It's a mix of an intense, but really loose practice," Rebels junior fullback/inside linebacker Chris Zaro said. "It's intense because it's early and we have a lot of guys here putting in a lot of work, but it's loose in that we're all really comfortable with each other as a team and we're getting a lot of guys out.

"The older guys have to make it easier for the younger guys, especially the freshmen, to understand what we're doing. That builds an excitement and we're excited to be back."

Missing from this summer's practice was all-everything back Stefan Smith, who tallied 2,814 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns (receiving and rushing) over the last two seasons.

The graduated Smith, who will be a preferred walk-on at USC, was the face of a powerful rushing attack that came to define Flintridge Prep football during his tenure.

With Smith gone, the Rebels have installed a new offense and will have an entirely different look this fall.

"Last year our offense was more traditional under center with Stefan carrying the load," Rebels junior quarterback Andrew Tsangeos said. "He was our workhorse. This year we're transitioning more toward the spread and shotgun with a read-option just to try to space the floor out. We're not the biggest team, but we're quick. We're going to have to use our brains and our speed to make up for the loss of Stefan."

Tsangeos took several snaps at practice, working at time with his receivers, and at other junctures with the entire offense, while showcasing his own fleet-footedness on bootlegs.

While the practice was light in nature, the value wasn't overlooked.

"For summer practices, we really want to focus on fundamentals," junior running back/linebacker Elliot Witter said. "We want to prepare ourselves to get ready for hell week and when we finally get to put those pads on and just hit. It's fun out here, but we're also working on the little things."

For senior Eric Kang, practice entailed working with the linemen separately on various drills before heading off to weightlifting. Kang, who will be on the offensive line and likely a linebacker, said with so many things going on in the summer, clarity was key.

"On offense, we're just trying to simplify all the plays and all the blocking schemes," said Kang, a Burbank resident. "We want this to be real simple so that everyone knows what they're supposed to do. It doesn't matter if we're running or throwing, blocking is blocking."

The conclusion of practice brought a huddle and break.

"We just have a different style here at Prep," Tsangeos said. "We work hard, but we're not all over each other barking and yelling. You want someone to follow you and respect you, then show them respect. That's what we do and that's what coach Harrison does and that's why we'll follow him anywhere and do whatever he asks."


Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.

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