As it attempts to rebuild in the offseason, the key for the Flintridge Prep football team will be numbers.
Not so much in the sense of statistical prowess or points scored, but simply as far as able bodies. The Rebels were forced to cancel two games last season, in which they finished 1-8, mainly because of injuries and small roster size that left Prep without enough available players to adequately field a team.
Over the spring, the Rebels' returning players campaigned hard to bring out more of their classmates, and have successfully recruited more than half a dozen new players to either fill out the varsity ranks or to bolster depth at the junior varsity level of the program. Both teams are up to about 30 players and counting, a notable improvement from last year.
"The boys did an excellent job of recruiting people here on campus who either used to play and don't play any more or who have never played before," Rebels third-year Coach Antonio Harrison said. "It takes some time and that's what we're trying to get a lot of people to understand — it's not going to be a quick fix, the only thing we can do to encourage guys to come out is to start winning. Once you start winning, people will come out on their own."
To that end, the summer, which hits a three-week dead period today, has been and will continue to be about getting into shape, improving conditioning and endurance and adapting the playbook to best capitalize on the team's abilities.
Harrison said former Rebels head coach and longtime assistant Glen Beattie will take over running the offense, while Harrison will assume the role of defensive coordinator. Harrison plans to scrap the team's 4-4 defense in favor of a 3-5-3 or 3-3-5 look.
"I think we're doing very well, considering how early we're starting," returning senior-to-be quarterback Clayton Weirick said. "We're just setting everything up so we have a smooth transition when we actually get to the season. We'll know our plays and we'll be ready to go."
While the Rebels don't really have an official spring session, according to Harrison, the team has been lifting weights and running Monday through Friday every week since the team banquet in December.
"We've been working hard since January, hitting the weight room," two-way lineman Chadd Cosse, who will also be a senior, said. "Guys are getting a lot bigger and a lot stronger, which should definitely give us a good push in league and maybe make a playoff run."
The Rebels will be senior-heavy, with 15 returning, and the offensive line figures to be the most experienced, cohesive unit with West Nowotny, Cory Witter, Tucker Chemel and Cosse back and the remaining position already filled.
It will be a two-way line, but Harrison said, "with these extra guys coming out, we're going to actually be able to give our guys a break, which is going to be key. That's what really killed us last season, our guys never got a break, even on special teams."
Other key returners are linebacker Dylan Colliflower, utility Stefan Smith, receiver/tailback Kory Hamane and cornerback Kurt Kocazik.
The Rebels will resume summer activities, which include participation in several area passing leagues, on July 16. Training camp officially begins Aug. 13.
"We're going to do some extremely creative things on special teams, as well," Harrison said. "We're putting in all the time we can and we're getting them started early so that way we don't have to spend so much time during training camp just learning plays. We can focus more on fundamentals, basis skills and perfecting our execution instead of having to install something new every single day.
"You can never tell until we get to Aug. 13 for training camp, but as of now things are looking up."