THURSDAY, NOV. 5: Two weeks of preparation were completed today, as the Wayne Hills Patriots had its final practice, in advance of the Nov. 6 game at Wayne Valley.
While head coach Wayne Demikoff was far from pleased with the overall effort at the Nov. 4, practice, a much more focused group of Patriots put in a three-hour workout today. In fact, most of the team was out earlier than the starting time of 10 a.m. to stretch.
The scout team goes through various Wayne Valley formations while the defense makes the adjustments to various schemes. Demikoff’s familiar ‘Good….back in the huddle’ after each scenario is commonplace. If there’s a mistake, or misalignment, it’s ‘Are you kidding me? Get back in the huddle.’
Offensive coordinator John Jacob is one of those guys you’ll never truly know, on a football field. He changes his mood during a drill as quickly as someone changes their socks.
A man with as dry a sense of humor as there is, he’s a modern day Rich Little. He can imitate just about anyone. Many times, he’ll tell a story involving multiple people, and the way he tells the story, you’d swear that everyone is in the room, with him.
On the field, I’ve often said ‘Jakes’ is never happy, but loves what he does. Football is what drives him, for sure. Today, he’s busy chiding the offense.
“Focus and discipline,” he says repeatedly, with the voice decibel rising to almost an operatic level. “You don’t want to look back and say what should have been. Stay focused.”
Now that the freshman season is concluded (Hills finished 9-0, including a 27-7 win over Wayne Valley on Nov. 4), a number of frosh are now practicing with the varsity.
“You’re with the big boys now,” said the ‘Czar’, Walt Johnson, as the special teams coach walked by the kids with fresh faces, most of whom look barely over the age of 12.
Johnson is an admitted organizational freak. If there’s a piece of paper out of place, it drives him crazy.
“Fail to plan, (then you) plan to fail,” Johnson said. “With kids this age, or younger, there’s a reason why structure is so important, both with athletes and students, in general. Every detail is important.”
For the most part, the players are loose, but are clearly locked in. They’re quick to recognize formations, and when Demikoff asks the defensive players about where to lineup on D for a particular play, 10 to 12 voices are quick to respond.
The coaches seem comfortable, too. There’s the usual back-and-forth among the guys as to which station may have gone over the limit for a drill. “I’m only 10 minutes late,” said Demikoff with a smirk. “I’m always on time,” Jacob counters, as some of the other coaches try not to break into laughter.
Matt Bogert and Mike Peischl, who coached the freshmen this fall, are now working with the varsity coaches. Today, those coaches are Demikoff, Jakes, Jermain Johnson, Mike Kelly, The Czar, Anthony Vitale and Eric Magrini.
Peischl, Kelly and Magrini are all former Patriots, and the three often share stories of their playing days at Hills, usually including former coach Chris Olsen in their summary of some crazy, but great times. Peischl was the quarterback of the 2005 state championship team while Kelly and Magrini were teammates in 1995 and 1996.
For Magrini, these have been some hectic weeks. He and his girlfriend, Michelle, welcomed their first child, Presley, into the world and Magrini, an educator, recently started working in a new school district.
But for Magrini, as he loves to say, “it’s all about saving the problem, babe.”
Demikoff reminded his players at the end of practice that it’s important for them to get some rest. Since there’s no school today, or tomorrow, he urges the kids to take some down time and stay hydrated, since it’s been unusually warm for this time of year, and the temperature on game day could hit 75 degrees, or warmer.
“No cramping up tomorrow,” Demikoff tells his players.
As for the game, the coach seems confident.
“We’re ready,” he says as the players listen intently. “What do you want to be remembered for, when it comes to playing football? Tomorrow night, you’ll get an opportunity that not all athletes get. You’ll be playing before a huge crowd, on a great night for football. It’s all in front of you.”
And with that, another practice is over, and game time is nearing.
Tick, tick, tick….