VICTORVILE • Silverado head football coach Carl Posey stood before his huddled players after a recent practice and asked: "If we can't run in the fourth quarter, what are we?"
The players responded in unison: "Cowards."
"We've worked way too hard to look like cowards out there," the coach said.
Posey was admonishing his team to work harder at physical conditioning — something he thinks will be a major factor for this year's squad.
Silverado has won the Desert Sky League title three years running (sharing it last year) but the Hawks have rarely done it with overpowering size. To succeed, they need to play fast.
"It's a huge concern based on what style of offenses and defenses that we like to run," Posey said in a post-practice interview. "We want a team with the ability to increase the pace of the game. ... Our game, I wouldn't call it a finesse game by any means, but it's a game that gives us the ability to level the playing field.
For us to try to dictate the pace of the game, we have to be in good shape."
Athleticism is usually one of the hallmarks of a Silverado team, and this year should be no different. What distinguishes these Hawks is that they might have their best playmaker ever at the quarterback position: senior Jemeryn Jenkins.
Jenkins threw for 2,597 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2008, adding 1,279 yards and 22 TDs on the ground despite a nagging ankle injury. He says he's healthy and hopes to be even better this season, improving his accuracy by "just reading coverages and trying to get the ball out quicker."
To capture the team's fourth straight league title, Jenkins will need help from players who haven't seen a lot of action as starters. Other than left tackle Michael Matlock, the offensive line is brand new, and Jenkins will have to find new targets to throw to as well.
One player the Hawks will rely on heavily is senior James Lynn, who will see action at tight end, fullback, tailback and slot receiver in addition to his duties on the defensive line. Returners such as Lynn and linebacker Jeremy Henry should make Silverado fairly solid on defense.
"We're going to be aggressive," Lynn said. "Very few mistakes; we have a lot of returners. What's special about our defense is they're not just returners, they're also hard workers. So we don't have to worry about losing too much on that side of the ball."
But the Hawks had to replace defensive coordinator Andrew Hay, who left the team to pursue a career in academic administration. Silverado had lined up a replacement who ended up taking another offer, so former freshman head coach Jonathon Federwisch took the job.
"It's been rough because everything is kind of last minute, but luckily we're running the same system and we've got so many returners that it's going to make it an easy transition," Federwisch said.
Just like last year, Silverado will play a brutal nonleague schedule, starting on Sept. 4 with Serra — a Gardena school that's ranked 15th in the state in one preseason poll. The toil of two-a-days and the tough nonleague competition will be a trial by fire that the coaches and players hope will prepare them for the league season — and beyond.
"Opening up with Serra, that's one of the best schools in California," Jenkins said. "We try to play the best competition we can to prepare us for league, and then take that with us to the playoffs."
Kris Reilly is the sports editor of the Daily Press. He can be reached at 951-6274 or via e-mail at email@example.com.