With the start of football season right around the corner, it is very easy to look ahead to the bright lights that will be illuminating stadiums across the region on Friday nights this fall. But for the Monterey Trail Mustangs varsity football program and head coach TJ Ewing, staying in the moment and understanding the importance of what has been a pivotal summer for the direction of the program has been the primary focus.
Coming off a season where the Mustangs earned an appearance in the CIF Sac Joaquin Section Division I championship game, Ewing and his team figure to carry over some confidence into the upcoming year. However, their recent graduating class featured standout players such as quarterback and team leader Zach Larrier, as well as top wide receiver Andre Crump and a host of other playmakers, making this summer critical to the development of players who figure to be thrust into more prominent roles. According to Ewing, his team has been putting in plenty of work this summer in order to fill those spots, leaving the coach feeling confident as the season gets closer.
“I’m really encouraged with the kids and the players that are coming back,” Ewing said. “They’ve put in a lot of work on their own. With the skill positions that we lost, these guys have done a really good job taking the onus to prepare on their own without coaching. That’s a really mature thing, to have the kids go out and practice on their own and hone their skills.”
Earlier this summer the team participated in a couple 7-on-7 events in the bay area, with days spent at San Jose State and De La Salle High School. Although those events are more reserved for skill players, Ewing was happy to see how his team performed alongside several other schools from the region.
“We felt like we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to keep working at,” he said. “
For the next three weeks the team is only able to participate in strength and conditioning training, otherwise known as the Section’s “dead period”, where teams are unable to engage in any formal football activities. However, when the team returns to the football field in August as they continue to prepare for their upcoming slate of games, it appears one big void has been filled. Senior quarterback Viktor Timonin (5’11”, 170 lbs.) is being tasked to fill Larrier’s big shoes. Timonin saw action at times in relief last season, and Ewing is plenty confident his new signal caller can get the job done.
“He’s done a great job this off-season developing his skills,” Ewing said. “He’s a really, really accurate thrower from the pocket. He can also run the option, and he’s just a good football player. He’s a really humble kid who is really like Zach (Larrier) in that way. A hard-working kid who demands a lot of himself. He’s a leader.”
Although Monterey Trail’s roster will look different than years past due to a strong graduating class, the anticipation of a new football season is palpable at Monterey Trail. According to Ewing, however, it is up to him and his coaching staff to manage that energy and make sure the team is ready to go when they take to the field in their preseason opener against Sheldon on Aug. 23.
“As coaches we still have things to finish in terms of getting the guys in great physical condition so they can participate,” Ewing said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now. We’re not really trying to push these days by, but make sure the days are quality, we have quality weeks, and we’re getting a lot of things completed and getting results each day. I feel like our kids are doing a great job of that.”
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