NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Hoover High football Coach Andrew Policky isn't a newcomer to the Tornadoes football program, but in just four short months the former assistant has put his stamp on the team and transformed it into something distinctly new on both sides of the ball.
While the Tornadoes were expected to take a step forward in former Coach Chris Long's third year in charge, the progression never materialized and when Long stepped down after failing to acquire a teaching credential following a 1-9 season, Policky stepped in and took the Tornadoes in a different direction.
On offense, Hoover has scrapped its spread formation and will go with a run-heavy version of the West Coast offense, while the defense will make a dramatic switch to a 3-5 stack formation.
The new era for the Tornadoes will see its first action at 7 p.m. Thursday at Moyse Field against archrival and regular-season ending opponent Glendale in a nonleague affair.
"It's great to start out with Glendale," said senior safety Gerardo Frasco, a member of last year's team, which ended its season with a humbling 54-19 loss at the hands of the Nitros. "We start with Glendale, we're going to finish with Glendale, and we're going to keep the intensity level there all the time."
Hoover's offense started off at a good pace last season, averaging 32.3 points per game, but trailed off dramatically with just 32 total points over its last five. Policky is looking for the Tornadoes to be more deliberate and find some consistency in moving the ball this year.
"[Offensively] we're going to show a lot of formations, we're going to show a lot of personnel groups and we're going to move around a lot pre-snap," said Policky, who served as the team's defensive coordinator last year, but will instead coordinate the offense this season. "[Last year] we threw the ball a lot more than we ran it and we're going to try and switch that up this year and get into some more heavy sets and try and pound the football a little bit."
Rather than the shotgun formations favored by Long's offense, the Tornadoes' new starting quarterback Alex Rangel, a senior, will take his snaps from under center and figures to hand off generously to senior tailback Luke Taboyoyong in a backfield that also includes David Martinez at fullback.
"It's more power offense, you're going to see a lot of running plays, a lot of boots, a lot of screen plays," Rangel said. "I was used to the spread, but it was an easy transition."
The offensive line features a mix of juniors Juan Lomeli, Jeffrey Truong and Gio Martinez and seniors Travelle Smith and Roney Escobar.
When Rangel does air it out, he will look for junior X-back Donovan Malone, junior Z-back Zach Hanson or junior tight end Patrick Kesacheckian. Razmik Mnatsakanyan will handle kicking duties.
"It's taken some time just to get used to the new tempo of practice and just the new level of commitment," Policky said. "We've gotten a little bit of pushback, but I think we're headed in the right direction. We're finally starting to figure out what it means to work hard."
Defensively, the Tornadoes have plenty to shore up after surrendering an average of 47.7 points per contest last year.
"It's going to be a big change from what we've done in the past," Policky said of the new defense. "We've always been a two-high safety team and now we're getting away from that. There's going to be a lot of different looks in terms of pressure and its tough angles-wise to scheme it up, so it will be interesting to see how we hold up against teams that spread us out. We might have to do some things to adjust to that, but it should be more exciting for the kids."
The senior group starting up front will be nose tackle James Cuentaz, flanked by ends Thomas Bauw and Smith.
Kesacheckian will be the strong-side linebacker, the inside linebackers are Gio Martinez and seniors John Traquena and David Hernandez and the weak-side linebacker is junior Alex Godinez.
The secondary will consist of cornerbacks Justin Nam, a junior, and senior Ferny Olivares and Frasco. Rangel will also punt.
"It was real easy getting used to the new defense," Frasco said. "It's much more complicated, but it's not that hard to learn. We're going to be stopping a lot of teams this year. You're not going to teams score 40 points on us any more."