Numbers swell Hoover High football's confidence

GLENDALE — As he walked around the first summer football practice of the season at Hoover High on Monday afternoon, second-year coach Matt Andersen was waiting for a burst of inspiration.

His players had been off for two weeks since the close of spring football and had only weight-lifted since late May.

Perhaps that's why the team appeared a bit listless during opening workouts, which included stretching and various drills.

Even jumping jacks in which players spelled out the school's name didn't have the same pop as the rendition of the national anthem performed by an also practicing band in the campus quad.

That's when Andersen changed up the tempo and called for a drill known as "Hoover Hardest."

"That always seems to get everyone fired up, whether you're in the middle of it or not," Andersen said. "We needed it, things were a little too quiet for my taste."

The exercise calls for a giant circle filled out by the squad with two players meeting in the middle. Those athletes simultaneously try to tackle each other while blocking the other's attempt at the same time.

Perhaps the best duel of the day was between linemen Mher Torrsian and Eric Jones, won by Jones, 2-1.

"Coach loves to get people fired up and pumped," Hoover senior running back Rayvin Tanhueco said. "It gets us going."

Shortly after the conclusion of the drill, Andersen broke up his team into varsity and junior varsity units, with blocking and pass-catching taking precedent.

Regardless of the success of practice, Andersen was already in a good mood due to the size of his squad.

"We've got our numbers up and we've got about 100 kids," Andersen said. "When I took over last May, we had 60 on the roster. I like that and the fact that we've been getting after it.

"We're going to be much more competitive this season. This is my second season and I figured out a lot of what needed to get fixed after that first season. It was a learning experience."

Perhaps the biggest lesson learned, and the secret to the swelling numbers at Hoover, was Andersen's ability to utilize his advantage.

The art teacher and flag football coach at nearby Toll Middle School drafted a slew of his own pupils to help build the program.

"I brought over 40 of my eighth graders from Toll," Andersen said. "So, we'll have a strong freshman class, which I like."

The infusion of newcomers has breathed life into a steely group of seniors intent on turning the tide in 2014.

"That's the biggest change, just the number of people here at practice and the attitude," Tornadoes senior offensive lineman/defensive tackle Ernest Nadurta. "There's a different energy and vibe here than last year. People want to compete and we're ready to turn this around."

According to senior tight end/defense end Joshua Lee, the emphasis on a culture change happened long before this summer.

"With coach Andersen, you just can't walk around or jog, you have to work and show a commitment," Lee said. "Our practices are so much more disciplined, even last year was so much different than with [former coach Andrew] Policky. I really think we're going to improve."

As the practice progress, wide receiver patterns began to run more crisply, while assistant coach Dave Beard's junior varsity squad was more than eager to challenge the seniors during drills.

"If we can get this group to push our seniors and upperclassmen, then you're going to have a much stronger team," Andersen said. "I hope people don't sleep on Hoover."

Just as Andersen finished speaking, Tanhueco took a hand-off off tackle left, which broke for 20 yards and elicited screams and hollers from Beard and Andersen.

"That's what I was waiting for," Andersen said.


Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.

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