Joey Pirillo has had just a few months to get to know his coaches and players.
On July 13-15 he got to finally see the Spartans in action.
Lathrop High’s first-year head coach was pleased with his squad’s effort during Manteca High’s team camp July 13-15 but understands there is much work to be done if it is to compete with the traditional powers of the Valley Oak League.
“We have a lot of talent in the skill positions,” he said. “We don’t have much depth with the big guys but they’re doing some good things.
“Right now I’m putting them in positions to fail to see how they respond instead of putting them in position to succeed. You don’t want to scheme out here, there’s no point that. You don’t want to show your hand.”
Understandable. Two of the Spartans’ 2015 opponents were part of the camp along with Central Valley. They participated in intra-squad drills and low contact scrimmages. Lathrop faces Ripon in a nonleague game for a fourth straight year, and Manteca, of course, is a VOL rival. The 29-year-old Pirillo is a Manteca grad and played for head coach Eric Reis in 2002-03.
“Coaching against them is interesting but it’s also fun,” he said.
Pirillo’s small coaching staff includes Ross Tisdell (defensive coordinator), Jon Estante (lines coach) and fellow Manteca grad Amil Ortega (WR/DB). The sophomore team will be headed by Jesse Rodriguez, the school’s first football coach, while the freshmen will be coached by former Weston Ranch star Torijean Saffold.
Pirillo, calling the shots for the offense, is implementing a multiple-I attack designed to take advantage of incumbent quarterback Diego Chavez’s mobility and the slew of skill players surrounding him. Although Pirillo didn’t “scheme” during the three-day camp, Chavez and the rest of the team was given a chance to test run the new offense.
“I really enjoy it,” Chavez said. “Last year I was more of a pocket passer, but this year we’re working more off of play-action and it’s more run-and-gun. I have a good relationship with coach Pirillo and it’s only going to get better.”
Lathrop is coming off a 2-8 season and is 7-52 overall in its first six season. The Spartans believe they can take the next step this year with a promising junior class joining a senior group led by lineman Rob Luckett, SS/RB Alex Valencia and FB/MLB Jacob Devita.
“The goal is to build on what we have,” Pirillo said. “The sophomore team did very well last year, and them coming up as juniors has created a lot of buzz on campus; they’re excited to see what this team can do.
Lathrop begins the season with back-to-back home games against West (Aug. 28) and Liberty Ranch (Sept. 4). On Sept. 11, the Spartans will look to notch their first win over Ripon.