A winless 2013 season could have sent the East football program in one of two directions. Sixth-year coach Greg Smith initially feared it could be the beginning of a downward spiral for a team that won six games the year earlier.
The players opted for the opposite.
“I guess you could say the kids have a chip on their shoulder because they’re not happy about going 0-10,” Smith said. “They put in a lot of work over the summer to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
East opened practice last week with nearly 30 players, a spike from last season’s participation. Smith expects even more to arrive as the season approaches, he said.
Senior Shawn Simmons stands atop that group. A two-way player, Simmons injured his shoulder early last season, but he spent the offseason rehabbing the injury. He will start at linebacker and running back.
“He’s just a really tough kid, as tough as they come,” Smith said. “He’s so dedicated. You should see his work in the weight room.”
Simmons is one of the few veterans on the team. He will share carries with Xanthanus Pierro, a speedy junior in line to split time between tailback and quarterback. Junior wideout Adrian Orozco will be Pierro’s top option in the passing game.
Simmons will pilot the defense, with defensive end Lajuane Pouncil also expected to provide a big role.
“We can fly to the ball on defense,” Smith said. “And that’s going to be the key for us. We’re really going to have to get after it.”