STOCKTON — When the East Union football team opens its 2012 season in Newman against Orestimba High there will only be two guarantees in place for the Lancer faithful.
Longtime Mike James will not be on the sideline for the squad as head coach. And secondly, his replacement will definitely be excited to take the field come that Friday night.
New Lancer head coach Willie Herrera is knee deep into his first season as the guiding force for the young and talented East Union Lancers. With a summer grind that has held the team’s attention since the summer break began, Herrera is poised to make a mark in his initial campaign.
“Football is fun,” Herrera said during a rain-soaked 7-on-7 scrimmage with St. Mary’s in Stockton Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t fun — I absolutely love it.”
Herrera’s upbeat personality will undoubtedly have a positive effect on his squad. The first-year head coach raced 40 yards this way and 40 yards back during the workout against the perennial Sac-Joaquin Section powerhouse.
The emphatic demeanor is easy to gravitate towards and even easier to pull for. It’s obvious that Herrera has been chosen for a reason and getting the undivided commitment from the Lancer roster will be the tell-tale sign that divulges all.
“He has been very good,” returning East Union assistant coach Dan Triglia said of Herrera’s transition. “The kids are buying into the program. Coach Willie has a lot of enthusiasm and the kids are really picking up with their enthusiasm.
“Right now everyone’s learning the game through his philosophy and it’s been a fantastic job.”
Herrera recently took the team to a full-contact camp at Cal, sharing the same field with top-notch Northern California programs such as Folsom, Bishop O’Dowd, Homestead, Centennial of Bakersfield, Salesian and Merced.
Next for the Lancers is another 7-on-7 scrimmage with Franklin and Brookside Christian next Tuesday, then a passing tournament at Modesto Junior College on July 9.
East Union made gigantic strides a season ago for a program that has been marred in mediocrity. East Union landed a postseason berth and has every expectation to shoot for another berth.
During the passing-league style scrimmage with St. Mary’s, the Lancers found their way to the end zone and were able to get plays from the secondary on the defensive end.
“That’s all that we ask of these kids is to compete,” Herrera said. “That’s why we’re out here and that’s why we’re playing teams like St. Mary’s, because that’s where we expect to be at the end. I’ve been very pleased with our kids, they have answered the call.
“Last year, we are not treating that as a fluke. That is not going to be a once-every-20-year occurrence, and that’s why our summer is the way it is.”