NORTHWEST GLENDALE - With the field mowed and the yard lines coated in white paint, the Hoover High football team held its first spring practice session Monday afternoon.
While most of the other area teams began their respective gatherings earlier in the month, the Tornadoes begin spring practice having already competed in a passing tournament. That hasn't been the case in recent seasons for Hoover, but third-year Coach Chris Long opted for something a bit different.
"Our spring practices will end June 10, so that still gives us three weeks of spring and then several weeks in the summer to get us going leading up to the season," said Long, whose team went 2-8 and 1-6 in the Pacific League for seventh place last season. "Early on, it's going to be about taking things slowly and just focusing on us.
"So, we are going to just focus on some of the fundamentals and see where our guys are at. We will have enough time to do things."
Hoover went winless in five games at the inaugural Spring Passing Classic, which was held Friday and Saturday at Crescenta Valley and Glendale. The Tornadoes stayed close during the latter stages of some of their contests.
Long said he's eager to see how the Tornadoes fare during the early stages of spring practice.
"Getting to play live competition was helpful and we played against some good teams like CV and Muir," said Long, whose team will begin its season with a nonleague road contest at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 against Sierra Vista. "Offense is mostly about timing and it's good for the quarterbacks and wide receivers.
"We've also had early morning workouts that started in January and ended last week."
Hoover senior quarterback AJ Pule made some significant strides during the passing tournament. Pule said spring practice can get teams prepared for future passing league tournaments and overall conditioning.
"It's a good warm-up and you can learn some new plays," said Pule, who completed 92 of 181 passes for 1,157 yards and six touchdowns. "It's good to be able to feel the ball and get some competition in so that you get your timing down with your receivers."
There are other purposes for conducting spring practice.
Take senior nose guard/offensive guard Enrique Diaz, for instance. Diaz went through his first spring practice with the varsity team last season.
"I learned about the level of speed and what it's like at the varsity level," Diaz said. "I hope to get another good spring in.
"We are not big on numbers and we have a lot of JV guys moving up. There's lots of skill involved, including hand coordination and timing."
Pule will handle most of the QB responsibilities for Hoover, which will begin league play with a home game against Burroughs on Sept. 30. Alexander Rangel will also get some repetitions.