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