A diamond in the rough

Standing in center field on the Hoover High baseball field last spring, Adam Ochart often had a good view of the nearby football field behind the chain-linked fence.

Ochart often ran the idea through his mind if stepping back on the football field again would be a wise move. As a freshman, he tried out for the football team before breaking his left wrist while skateboarding.

The senior made up his mind last summer to give football a try once again. He’s not regretted his decision.

“I always wanted to play football, but I figured I was too small,” said the 5-foot-9 Ochart, who plays wide receiver, cornerback and safety. “I didn’t know if I would get playing time because it’s my first season.

“I knew that I wanted to keep playing baseball, but I figured I could help the [football] team out in some different ways.”

Ochart, who earned All-Area and All-Pacific League honors in baseball last spring, got himself in further shape to eventually handle the rigorous practices under the searing heat in August. Less than three weeks later, Ochart found himself in the starting lineup during a nonleague contest against host Golden Valley.

“One of the reasons why I got back into football is because it’s so much fun and you take in the different experiences,” said Ochart, who has caught three touchdowns passes this season. “I think I would be regretting it right now if I wasn’t playing football.”

Since returning to the gridiron, he’s caught the attention of opposing coaches throughout the Pacific League. That would include second-year Crescenta Valley Coach Tony Zarrillo, who played high school football at Hoover, as well. In fact, Ochart wears Zarrillo’s old jersey, No. 23.

Following the conclusion of a recent Glendale YMCA Quarterback Club meeting, Zarrillo still hadn’t forgotten what Ochart has meant to the Tornadoes.

Ochart caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback AJ Pule in a 47-7 loss to Crescenta Valley on Oct. 24 at Moyse Field. He finished with a pair of receptions for 69 yards.

“He’s done such a wonderful job for them,” said Zarrillo, who also once served as an assistant coach at Hoover. “Every time that we’re looking at a video of the opposing team, we can see who their best players are because they stand out.

“Adam stood out first and foremost. At our Sunday morning coaches meeting the week before we played Hoover, we worked out how we would have to play against him. We felt like we needed to put a few things in place with him in mind.”

Though he’s managed to put up some respectable numbers for the Tornadoes, Ochart, who helped the baseball team reach the postseason last year, would like to leave the field on a winning note.

The Tornadoes have surrendered a league-high 445 points and have scored a league-worst 67.

“It’s been tough, but everybody is working just as hard as the other,” Ochart said. “[First-year Hoover Coach Chris Long] has improved us a lot since the start of the season.

“We are a very different team. We are hitting people harder and we are running our routes better. We’ll lean on each other because we are like a big family. My teammates are like my brothers.”

Long, who came to Hoover after spending the previous two seasons as head coach at Western Christian after serving as a defensive coordinator at Basset, welcomed Ochart to the team and didn’t hesitate handing out responsibilities to him.

“I know that his mind is always there because he’s been involved with sports all of his life,” Long said. “When he came out to the [preseason] practices, we thought he was the best kid out there.

“We knew that we had to keep him, and I’m glad he’s stayed on with us.”

So is Ochart, who will try to help the Tornadoes beat Glendale for the first time since 2006 on Friday night.

Grabbing hold of the Victory Bell and being able to ring it on the field would be the perfect way to close out the season.

“We’ve had our eye on the Glendale game for a long time,” Ochart said. “I want to do anything I can to help us win.”

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