A year ago, James Sims left his coaching position at Florida’s Hawthorne High in favor of a move to La Cañada High football.
This year, another Sims — D’Andre, James’ son — is set to trade the sunshine state for the golden one and join the Spartans. It’ll be the first time since D’Andre, 17, was 10 years old that he’s played under his dad.
Hope for a father-son reunion was sparked after D’Andre visited his dad and La Cañada High in November. During the trip, James took him to La Cañada’s locker and equipment rooms and showed him the new football helmets La Cañada will don in 2013.
“He picked one up and said, ‘Dad, you have to reserve me one of these helmets,’” said James, who learned his son’s transfer to La Cañada was officially approved two weeks ago.
“I wanted to come back and play for my dad and help [La Cañada] win some games,” said D’Andre, who lifted weights at La Cañada High Tuesday.
D’Andre, who arrived in California Friday, previously played football his sophomore year at Florida’s Atlantic Coast High. After being the only sophomore on the Stingrays varsity team in 2011, the incoming senior took a break from football his junior season to take a break to focus on music.
While D’Andre’s transfer has been approved by the La Cañada Unified School District, he’s still going through paperwork to enroll in classes at La Cañada and be cleared by the CIF Southern Section. Until that’s completed, he can’t practice with the Spartans.
“I didn't think it was a possibility,” James said of his son playing for him again. “I thought he walked away from [football].”
When it come to picking back up the football and leaving Florida for California, La Cañada just felt right for D’Andre when he visited over Thanksgiving break.
“Seeing the city, how nice it is and the people were and the motivation out here — it's a lot better than Florida,” D’Andre said. “I am looking forward to coming to a new school, getting some good grades and hopefully getting into a good college.”
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, D’Andre stands to make a powerful impact for the Spartans, who are looking to rebound from a 2-8 season in 2012. La Cañada also placed fifth in the six-team Rio Hondo League a year ago with a 1-4 record.
More than just his play between the sidelines, James hopes his son will have an emotional impact as well.
“He’s definitely going to bring a different football mentality,” James said. “He’s been on championship, winning teams and never been on a losing team, so he is going to be like me — not willing to accept that.”
D’Andre is a big addition to the Spartans up front defensively. He’ll start on one end of the defensive line, which will be bigger than La Cañada has had in a long while. Paired with an experienced linebacker group, it could help make a formidable Spartans defense.
Starting on the opposite side of D’Andre will be incoming junior Todd Murray (6-3, 210). Inside will be Guillermo Padilla (6-1, 250) and Steve Naldzhyan (6-3, 275).
“That’s a Monrovia-type defensive line,” James said.
While La Cañada’s defense gave up 31.3 points a game in 2012, those numbers are deceiving because of the team’s offensive woes. The Spartans, who also struggled to put together sustained drives with the football at times, committed more than two turnovers a contest, usually giving the opposition a short field on an overworked defense.
“There were so many games where the other team was up, 28-0, in the first quarter,” Sims said in late June. “It’s not like we were getting dominated, we kept fumbling the ball.”
D’Andre will also be used as a fullback in short-yardage situations and at tight end in double-tight formations.
“It feels good [to play with my dad], I know his strategy and I know his game plan,” D’Andre said. “It will feel good to play with him again.”