Cats begin two-a-days looking for faster start

Sophomore backs (from left) Dominique Charles, Jaden Isler and Taylor Muse receive snacks from CHS football booster club member Bessie Lovern during a break on Monday’s first day of football practice. (CNJ staff photo: Andrew Chavez)Clovis High seni

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

Clovis High senior Aaron Simon is changing positions in the offensive line this year, but he says he doesn’t mind.

A starting tackle last season, Simon has moved to center for the Wildcats, who began preseason workouts on Monday.

“I played center in the ninth grade,” the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Simon said. “I’d play anywhere they put me. I like center. You have to know a lot more, but it’s a lot easier with the blocking schemes.”

Simon was one of about 115 prospects who showed up for the first two-a-day workout of the season. The team splits the two workouts with about a 90-minute break.

The Cats return only Simon and tackle Aaron Richards from last year’s offensive line, which helped the team reach the Class 5A state championship game. But Simon noted this year’s line will be made up of all seniors, so he isn’t all that concerned.

“I really think we’ll be all right,” he said. “We’ve been working pretty hard in the (area of) weightlifting, and I think we’re a pretty tight-knit group.”

Joaquin Garcia, who coaches the offensive and defensive lines, believes the Cats will be OK in both areas even though the defense doesn’t returns a starter in the three down positions.

“I think my three down linemen (on defense) will be just as good as last year, he said. “Last year was a good year for us. I think we’ll definitely be bigger up front, and I think we have the potential to do really well.”

The Cats will use the three days of practice before going to full pads mostly for conditioning purposes, according to defensive coordinator Darren Kelley.

“The big thing the next three days is to get into shape and get the soreness out, and being able to remember (assignments) when you get tired,” he said.

Kelley said things went pretty well overall on Monday.

“We’re a little farther along (than last year) because we have a few more people who can be leaders and teach the others how to do it,” he said. “I think as soon as everyone figures out the varsity speed, things will get a lot easier for us.”

Players and coaches are anxious for Thursday’s first day of full pads.

“I can’t wait,” Garcia said. “That’s when you see who the players are.”

Senior tight end-linebacker Jon Sweet agreed.

“It’ll be a tough day, but it’s one of the funnest days (in preseason) because that’s when you get to strap it up,” he said.

The Cats hope to improve on their 1-3 start of a year ago. They went on to win eight in a row after that to reach the title game, where they lost to La Cueva.

“We’re going to try and make a statement at the beginning of this year,” Sweet said. “I’m probably speaking for everyone, but I want to finish the season with a state championship.”
Simon said the Cats simply need a good approach to the early games.

“We’ve got to go out and play with the same intensity in the first game that we had in the playoffs last year,” he said.