John Tuttle saw a clear change in his Glendale High football team when it squared off with cross-town Hoover in 2010 when he was coaching the freshman squad.
Everything felt different from the previous nine games of the year — the electric atmosphere, the size of the crowd and the intensity of his team.
Now that Tuttle has taken over as the new Nitros varsity coach, he's looking for his team to bring that same focus and passion to each game this year.
"That's one of the things we talked about the other day actually," Tuttle said. "It's not about week 10, it's about week one through 10. Each game of the year is important, not just Hoover.
"We talk about preparing for each and every week — to win football games you have to prepare not just show up and play."
Both of Glendale's wins in a 2-8, 1-6 in Pacific League 2011 season came against its cross-town rival, as both teams opened and closed the season against each other. The Nitros won the opener by a score of 20-6 and the season finale, 55-49.
In his first season with the Nitros, Tuttle, who replaces three-year coach Alan Eberhart, wants to see his new team compete and keep games close.
"I think a successful season for us would be being competitive in games, giving people a run for their money," said Tuttle, whose team hasn't reached the playoffs since 2003. "That way we have a chance at the end of the game and can see what happens at the end. I think that would be a realistic goal for us. I hope that we can be competitive and get people to start preparing for us."
It would be a good step forward for the Nitros, who played La Cañada (16-14) and Pasadena (47-46) very close last year, but were unable to stay within 27 points in the rest of their losses in 2011.
Tuttle is already off to a good start, as Glendale's numbers have shot up to about 44 after there were about 30 players on varsity last year.
That, along with the changes Tuttle has brought in with new schemes on offense and defense, have the Nitros feeling confident.
That's the goal of Glendale starting left tackle and defensive tackle Patrick Novshadian and many other Nitros.
"I think [finishing] 6-4 would be great, a winning season," Novshadian said of this year's goal.
Glendale will look to a new run-heavy offense and a base 4-4 defense for success this season.
"We're going to try to control the tempo of the game by running the ball," said Tuttle, who didn't elaborate much on the offense other than it will involve some "gap schemes" and outside runs on tosses.
Kevin Felix steps in to take over at quarterback for the graduated Evan Norton.
"We are hoping he can do the little things for us, manage the game and hit the guy when he's open and get first downs for us," Tuttle said of Felix, a junior. "We aren't going to ask for anything crazy out of him, just manage the football game and be smart with the ball."
Michael Davis is the greatest offensive threat for Glendale this year after he earned first-team all-league and second-team All-Area honors last year with 860 yards receiving on 52 receptions. Tuttle said getting the ball in his hands anyway possible — on passes, handoffs and even direct snaps at quarterback — will be key.
Davis, who's heading to Brigham Young University, will also play a big role in Glendale's defense in the secondary, which figures to be the Nitros' strength on defense this season with Christian Osorio, Martin Marin and Felix looking to contain the other team's passing attacks.
"Things are looking pretty good so far," Davis said. "Our offense is a lot better. Our defense still needs a little bit of work, but we're looking a lot better than last year."
Glendale will look to Novshadian to lead the defensive line and two sophomore linebackers — Ricky Herra and Daniel Jung — to control the middle of the field.
"Those are some young guys who are going to have to learn quickly on the job," Tuttle said of Herra and Jung.
Osorio also steps in for Yoon at running back after he stepped into the offense late in 2011 when Yoon was sidelined with an ankle injury.
"I just want to have a great season, have a nice breakout year in my last year and walk out proud," Osario said.
From a coaching staff point of view, a good season for Glendale means staying competitive each week. The players take it a step farther.
"Playoffs," said Osorio of Glendale's goal this year. "We want to get some respect back to the school and have a winning season, at least 6-4. That's what we want to do, that's the plan. We want to change it around, make people want to play football at this school again and make it a well-known program. We have it in us and coach Tuttle and all these coaches are trying to shape it up again and change the way we look at it."