Hawkins foot­ball starts over

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SONDHEIMER eric.sondheimer@la­times.com Twit­ter: @lat­sond­heimer

Some­one should have played Drake’s “Started From the Bot­tom” on the Hawkins High foot­ball pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem Tues­day as a group of 20 play­ers opened prac­tice un­der Richard Dax Sanchies, a 33-year-old rookie coach who took over a pro­gram that pretty much had hit rock bot­tom.

No longer will you find Jim Har­baugh, Clay Hel­ton or Rich Ro­driguez hang­ing around Hawkins try­ing to re­cruit “five-star” prospects. The prospects are long gone, aban­don­ing Hawkins for Long Beach Poly, L.A. Cathe­dral and Santa Clarita Golden Val­ley, among oth­ers.

The Hawks have faced ad­ver­sity for months. It started with their col­lapse in the City Sec­tion Di­vi­sion II fi­nal against un­der­dog Los An­ge­les, a 36-6 loss. Then the coach­ing staff was dis­missed in Fe­bru­ary. The ad­min­is­tra­tors in charge of the foot­ball pro­gram also were re­placed.

In April, there was a shoot­ing near cam­pus in which a 15-year-old boy was killed. A new coach backed out of the job. Then the City Sec­tion ruled that Hawkins had to for­feit ev­ery game from last sea­son be­cause of in­el­i­gi­ble play­ers.

Sanchies took the job July 26, the third day of of­fi­cial prac­tice. He had been an as­sis­tant at Granada Hills Kennedy and was go­ing to coach the eight­man team at East Val­ley. He went to fresh­man ori­en­ta­tion and spot­ted Travis War­ren throw­ing a foot­ball in the gym. War­ren was a 6-foot-1 shoot­ing guard for the bas­ket­ball team. Right on the spot, Sanchies re­cruited him.

“I no­ticed how nat­u­ral his spi­ral was,” Sanchies said.

War­ren, a ju­nior who had never be­fore played foot­ball, is set to start at quar­ter­back next Friday when the Hawks play Sale­sian in a scrim­mage. Most of the play­ers still in the pro­gram are from the ju­nior var­sity team. The one top var­sity player who didn’t leave was kicker Bran­don Sanchez, who beat Dorsey last sea­son with a field goal.

“The whole school doesn’t know we have a foot­ball team,” Sanchies said. “We’re do­ing this word of mouth.”

None of the play­ers seem con­cerned about the past. They’re ex­cited they have a coach try­ing to teach lessons, and with War­ren, it’s like start­ing from scratch. He’s had to learn how to put on shoul­der pads, me­morize plays and fig­ure out quar­ter­back foot­work. He doesn’t even know what uni­form num­ber he’ll wear, nor does he care.

“I’m go­ing out there to play and show them what I can do,” he said.

There’s lots of nicelook­ing Adi­das jer­seys, hel­mets and shoul­der pads sit­ting un­touched in a room. Now Sanchies has to find play­ers who want to play. He’s not com­plain­ing. Give him time. Hawkins had picked up nu­mer­ous trans­fers in re­cent years, help­ing lead to suc­cess on the field, but in­el­i­gi­ble play­ers twice landed the Hawks on pro­ba­tion.

“What I’m left is ev­ery­one who lives in the district,” Sanchies said. “A lot of kids didn’t get an op­por­tu­nity be­cause they were play­ing be­hind a five-star re­cruit. Now it’s their chance. Ev­ery­body is gone. It’s wide open, but we have some tremen­dous ath­letes.”

War­ren and an­other bas­ket­ball player, Max Her­ring, could be top ath­letes for Hawkins. Her­ring has played JV foot­ball for three years. He started out at 110 pounds be­fore adding 15 pounds. Now he has grown to 6-2 and 150 pounds and will be used at re­ceiver, tight end and de­fen­sive back.

The pres­sure is off the play­ers. The team is in re­build­ing mode.

“It’s hard,” Her­ring said. “Most don’t know how to lift weights.”

The In­ter­net re­cruit­ing gu­rus have dis­ap­peared, as have col­lege re­cruiters. Sanchies be­lieves they’ll come back one day, but he’s tak­ing it one day at a time, teach­ing play­ers how to pump iron, run pat­terns and put on shoul­der pads.

“It’s been ter­rific,” War­ren said of his two-week foot­ball ex­pe­ri­ence. “I have a good coach. He helps me. The only hard part be­ing quar­ter­back is the plays and get­ting to know the play­ers.”

The top re­cruits may be gone, but Hawkins has a team it just might be able to rally around. They’re neigh­bor­hood kids de­ter­mined to do their best. And un­der the new City Sec­tion play­off for­mat, whether they go 10-0 or 0-10, they’re guar­an­teed a Di­vi­sion I play­off berth.

Eric Sondheimer Los An­ge­les Times

COACH Richard Dax Sanchies, left, and quar­ter­back Travis War­ren are look­ing for suc­cess at Hawkins.

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