LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — It's mid afternoon on a spring day and Antonio Harrison is seated in the Flintridge Prep weight room with a laptop computer.
The first-year Rebels football coach keeps his team busy with push ups and sit ups, then weight training, and after each series of exercises, he makes a note of each player's number of reps and weight lifted.
Right now, they're all just numbers on a spreadsheet, but Harrison's plan is for the steady growth of those numbers over the spring and summer to translate into better numbers on the field in the fall.
"Once they got back from Christmas break, I took it upon myself to open [the weight room] up and start putting together workouts for them and put us in a position to have a better season," said Harrison, who served as a first-year assistant coach on the 2009 Rebels team that went 2-7, 2-3 in the Prep League for fourth place, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. "It's going to be a huge step. ...Most football players, you've kind of got to live in the weight room, that's a huge component for football. I really wanted them to get in here, to know they can get bigger and stronger. Also it's a team bonding moment."
Harrison opened the weight room for voluntary workouts in the winter and strongly encouraged team-wide attendance.
It's something the players gradually took to heart and the weight room has become more crowded, even more so now that players who are also in spring sports have seen their seasons conclude.
"I haven't really gotten in [the weight room] much just because of baseball, but I'm excited for it," junior Kyle McDonald said. "It's intense and we're working a lot."
Harrison said building strength and stamina will be a key to improving the Rebels' second-half play. The depth-challenged squad was often gassed in the fourth quarter last season and found itself outmuscled by opponents.
"Things have been definitely more intense workout wise, as in training," sophomore Lucas Kim said. "Definitely we're going to get bigger, our hits are going to be stronger and we're gonna take hits and it's not gonna hurt as much."
In succeeding former Coach Perry Skaggs in March, Harrison is a familiar face to the Rebels' returners. He's also quite familiar with the football program as a former player and 2001 graduate of Prep
"I'm extremely excited, it's a huge opportunity for me," Harrison said. "I'm trying to instill the pride I remember we used to have playing here. Prep used to always be No. 1 or 2 in league, always in the playoffs — that was a staple for us — that's what we're trying to bring back."
Players said they like Harrison's enthusiasm and intensity.
"At the beginning I was a little nervous because it's a whole new system and everything," junior Eric Kazangian said. "I thought we were going to abandon everything we had done, but [Coach Harrison] has been awesome. He's here every single day getting people in the weight room and he's just bringing a lot of energy to the program. He really knows what he's doing."
Said junior Jordan Whaley: "The difference this season is the excitement and the learning curve. Now everybody has experience, so it's not just getting in the weight room, but it's also really understanding the plays and understanding what the system's gonna be about and responsibilities and just being efficient."