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Glendale High football looks for new leaders in spring

GLENDALE — While football practice and conditioning requires a variety of drills and activities, some orthodox and others out there, the Glendale High football team had a different set of responsibilities Tuesday morning.

Before the squad began its 10:30 a.m. weight-lighting session, several members, mostly juniors, helped with the set-up of the graduation stage located on the north side of the end zone and encapsulating the first 20 yards or so of Moyse Field.

As the school prepared to wave goodbye to its senior class that evening, it was the team's juniors that moved barricades and adjusted tables and chairs.

In one sense, the act was a final nod to the graduating class, while in another way, the incoming seniors were taking their own first steps toward becoming leaders.

"We feel like this is our time to lead," said Nitros junior running back Luis Ruiz, who rushed for 590 yards and four touchdowns last season in a split backfield. "We've had great advice from those guys and have learned a lot, but now it's our time to do the same and keep building this program."

Perhaps Tuesday was a perfection representation of Glendale spring football.

Nitros Coach John Tuttle had around 50 players from the varsity and junior varsity squads at weight-lifting and at the following practice on the baseball field.

Some players were missing due to excused absences, while others had family and school activities.

As for practice itself, access to Moyse Field has been limited because of graduation and other sports' use of the field.

"The guys have had to overcome a lot of obstacles so far," Tuttle said, "but if you've been a part of this program over the last few years, you're already used to that."

One change for Glendale will come under center as junior Julian Rovira is taking over at quarterback for departing two-year starter Kevin Felix.

"He's a hard-worker and he can lead these guys," Tuttle said of Rovira. "He's not completely new to this."

Rovira saw action in four games last season, completing eight of 20 passes for 83 yards, with his lone interception and touchdown coming in a seventh week defeat to Crescenta Valley, 27-7.

"This spring has been about a lot studying and getting to know the system," Rovira said. "I'm an average passer right now, but I want to improve and that's what I'm trying to do at these practices."

Tuttle and his Nitros are also scheduled for a few passing tournaments this spring and summer, including on June 24 at Los Angeles Franklin High.

The 5-foot-8, 145-pound Rovira wasn't bashful in addressing an immediate need while taking a break from weight-lifting.

"I know I have to get bigger and stronger," Rovira quipped. "I'm working on that."

Rovira's success will be directly tied to at least two factors, namely the protection in front of him and the success of the running game around him.

"Working hard right now in the spring isn't just about getting better now, but for the future," junior offensive lineman Grey Cabrera said. "You can use the field as an excuse, but we have a schedule that works and there are no excuses. We're working to be stronger this year."

The Nitros finished 3-7 in 2012 and 4-6 in 2013 and are pining for a first .500 or better season since 2008, with those hopes resting somewhat on the returning legs of running backs Daniel Jung (914 rushing yards and nine touchdowns) and Ruiz.

"If we're able to run the ball, then it takes a lot of pressure off Rovira," Tuttle said. "He doesn't have to come out and be great, but I do expect he'll be able to make plays when he needs to."

As for that leadership role, Ruiz slid into that Tuesday to deflect some attention from his quarterback.

"We all need to be better and stronger this year," Ruiz said. "Before, all the responsibility was on the seniors. Now we're the seniors and we'll have to push ourselves and help the younger guys on this team."


Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.

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