With a pair of zero week games on tap, the Flintridge Prep and Hoover High football teams are looking to start 2013 out on the right foot in front of their home fans Friday.
Both games will kick off at 7 p.m. with the Rebels and Tornadoes facing the same season-opening opponents from 2012, Army-Navy and Blair, respectively. Prep plays host at Occidental College, while Hoover breaks in Moyse Field.
Flintridge Prep is eager to start strong with a win, something it didn’t do last year, dropping three of its first four games, including an overtime loss to Army-Navy.
Hoover isn’t concerned with the final result, as long as it plays the right way.
“I think it's definitely important to get off to a good start, more so because we're a young team,” said Flintridge Prep Coach Antonio Harrison, whose team is coming off hell week. “We're junior-heavy and a couple losses to start the season can set the tone and it's tough to get up from that if you've never experienced it at the varsity level. I would like to see them have some success, especially with how hard they've worked.”
The Rebels, who are ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, were in complete control against Army-Navy last year, with a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, before fatigue set in and they wore down before eventually losing the game in overtime, 32-30.
While Harrison said the loss left a bad taste in his and the team’s mouths, due to game clock issues, the game doesn’t necessarily carry any extra significance for his squad.
Like the rest of the Rebels, Stefan Smith will be eager to hit the ground running. He missed most of the 2012 season opener with Army-Navy with an injury and will likely play a big factor Friday, as the primary running back for Prep this year.
In a time share with Kurt Kozacik in the backfield last season, Smith racked up 1,480 rushing and 228 receiving yards and 26 offensive touchdowns (23 rushing and three receiving) and Flintridge Prep finished 6-5.
Quarterback competition is still open for the Rebels, as senior Kyle Law and sophomore Andrew Tsaengos will rotate at the position each quarter to help Harrison and his staff evaluate who they’ll look to long term.
“We’re going to give them each a chance to control the game and a do a bit of passing,” Harrison said. “I think it will be a good chance to let them do that.”
Despite all the changes it’s endured this offseason, Hoover may have to fight complacency in its opener after it steam rolled a Blair team that was in a similar position, with a first-year coach brought in late in the offseason, the Tornadoes are in now.
“We’ve installed everything we’ve kind of wanted to install and now it’s just focusing on what we like against [Blair] and what we’re going to be good at,” said first-year Hoover Coach Matt Andersen, who wants his team to be hard-working, tough and physical on the field. “Coming out, keeping it simple, letting them play and just letting them get after it is what we’re looking to do.”
The Tornadoes got out to a strong start last year, starting with a 46-0 victory over Blair in a zero-week game last year to snap a 17-game losing streak and winning their next game before finishing the year at 3-7.
It’s hard to tell who will make a big impact out of the gate because the Tornadoes graduated 19 seniors last year. Those players stepping into bigger roles are Se Jun Kim at quarterback, Raven Tanhuenco at running back and safety and Alvin Kim at wide receiver and outside linebacker.
While it would certainly be nice, Andersen’s main concern isn’t a victory Friday. With a new spread offense and 3-4 defense put in place just three months ago, he’s more concerned with establishing an identity.
“Nothing about wins, all we preach is earning respect and there’s only one way we know how to do it and that’s just being the more physical team,” Andersen said. “We’re going to be a fourth-quarter football team and that’s all I’m worried about, bringing the team together, preaching team and not individualism, none of that.”