GLENDALE — Any first-year coach must find a way to keep one eye on the present and the other on the future.
That’s exactly the situation Hoover High football Coach Matt Andersen found himself in after stepping in to take over for Andrew Policky, who left for Arcadia High, in late May.
Despite the late start, Andersen is pleased with where his team is positioned for its season opener and down the road.
“We’ve done good, I think, I’m happy with how far we’ve come the past three months,” said Andersen, who inherits a squad that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1987. “We’re trying to hold kids accountable, I think they were just used to doing things a certain way in the past to where things have changed.”
Work ethic, toughness and physicality are all character traits the Tornadoes’ new leader has looked to enhance or instill in his group for immediate and long-term success. Hoover will start its new chapter under Andersen against Blair, a team it defeated, 46-0, last year, Friday at 7 p.m. at Moyse Field.
“Compared to last season we’ve been working so much harder, we’ve been working like 10 times harder,” Hoover junior Joshua Lee said. “We’ve been running a lot more to get ready for the upcoming season. I am excited for the first game, ever since three months ago we’ve just been excited waiting.”
There have also been systematic changes at Hoover. Andersen has moved the Tornadoes away from Policky’s wing-T to a spread offense and out of a 6-2 to a 3-4 defense.
“The new plays that we put in, it’s not the same as last year, they’re better,” Hoover senior Israel Rosas said of the spread. “We’re not only depending on a couple of plays, we have a variety of plays to choose from and I think that’s going to help us.”
Hoover put together one of its finest seasons in recent memory last year when it went 3-7, 1-6 in the Pacific League. Goals for 2013 aren’t spelled out in victories, though; the first step is changing the identity of the program.
“Our only goal this year is to kind of earn that respect within the league and that’s all I’m worried about,” said Andersen, adding it will be done with physicality, toughness and playing fast. “I want people to watch us on film and know that we’re going to bring it.”
After graduating 19 seniors, the Tornadoes’ offense was particularly hit hard. It lost quarterback Brendon Kerr, workhorse running back Jesse Pina, its top two wide receivers and three offensive linemen from last year.
Senior Se Jun Kim and junior Raven Tanhuenco have been tabbed to lead the offense at quarterback and running back, respectively. Alvin Kim has been converted to a wide receiver to give his new quarterback a dangerous target in an offense that’ll be more balanced.
“It’s more passing than last year, offensive-wise, and it’s higher tempo,” Se Jun Kim said. “It’s a much faster-tempo offense and it’s more complex than last year.”
That’s not to say the Tornadoes will abandon the run under Andersen, who was an impact running back at Occidental College.
“I think with the spread a lot of people automatically assume it’s just a throwing offense, but coming out four-wide, one back and 10 personnel it opens up the run game if you can do both things well,” Andersen said. “I love the spread as a running back.”
Tanhuenco will run behind returning offensive linemen Rosas (left tackle), Lee (right tackle) and Ernest Nadurata (guard). Like many key Tornadoes, all three linemen will double up front on defense with a thin roster.
Hoover carried a 32-man roster last year and has 30 players in the fold this year. Andersen and his coaching staff have begun recruiting on campus the last two weeks to boost those numbers.
“I am almost feel bad for bringing new guys in and putting them in when everyone else has been here working the last three months, but I am trying to build a program and right now I need numbers,” Andersen said. “We’re getting there.”