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SPARTANS TAKE FLIGHT

Lathrop wants to keep defenses guessing with multi-set offense

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SPARTANS TAKE FLIGHT

Defensive back Preston Rizo picks off the pass intended for KV Bal.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED August 23, 2012 1:43 a.m.

LATHROP — Giving up the offensive reins wasn’t easy for Lathrop High head coach Jesse Rodriguez.

Ever since the program started with a frosh-soph team in 2008 he had called the wishbone plays that have allowed the young team to compete with established programs in the Valley Oak League with more size and speed.

But with Dwayne Davis, who guided the lower level teams the past two years, now overseeing the multiple pro formations, Rodriguez is now focusing all of his efforts of the Spartans defense — a group he’s gearing up to play stingy enough to allow the new concepts on the other side of the ball to gel and take shape.

“It’s something that’s fresh and it’s something that a lot of teams are going to have to adjust to,” Rodriguez said. “One play they’re lining up in doubles, and then trips and then four wide — it’s all about making them adjust to you and then switching it up.

“We had some good looks with it at the West camp earlier this (summer). It’s the first time in 20 years that I haven’t been calling plays, but it’s a new start for us.”

With a solid core of team leaders like offensive and defensive linemen Hector Flores and Jay Butler that Rodriguez says have been leading by example since the first summer workout session — and others like Austin Plunk who have taken the vocal leadership role — the team has been coming together and functioning well as a unit.

Serving as the backbone of the offense this year will be tight end Plunk and junior running back Kevin Rainey. Preston Rizo and junior Kenny Garrett are currently locked in a battle for the quarterback position, and Alex Relova, healed from an injury last season, will serve as the team’s fullback.

“We’ve got some strengths and some guys that have really stepped up into their roles. (Austin) Plunk is a force and Kenny (Garrett), who is also going to play safety for us, has really pushed Preston Rizo for the quarterback slot,” Rodriguez said. “And we’ve got Plunk playing outside linebacker and playing a big role as a defensive leader. Some guys are really stepping up.”

The big change this season, however, might not have anything to do with plays or positions or stats or opponents.

According to Rodriguez, the biggest push this offseason has been to change the idea of what Lathrop High football is all about — a departure from what most people would perceive as, seasons successful.

“We’ve been talking about a change of perception — a mindset,” he said. “It’s to drive into these guys to go as hard as you can every game because you worked just as hard as anybody to get where you are. It’s a mental thing.”

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