The Sobrato High football team wasted no time in its preparation for the upcoming 2021 season. The Bulldogs, who play their season-opener in the last week of August, took advantage of the return of 7 on 7 passing league contests as they competed with Oak Grove on June 23.
Although full-contact practices are prohibited until August, 7 on 7s have returned and provide players and coaches an opportunity to hit the field, work on passing plays and build chemistry.
It’s also prime time for linemen to work on their fundamentals as defensive players try to get to a dummy in the fastest time possible against their offensive counterparts in a separate part of the field. Teams don’t run the ball in 7 on 7s, so quarterbacks throw the ball upwards of 100 times or more during these events. No score is kept but coaches have a good idea on which squad is controlling the action.
Incoming junior Seth Hernstedt looked solid connecting with a receiving core that included Nate Ortiz, Remy Hernandez, Christian Byrum and C.J. Taylor. The 7 on 7 events tend to be a quarterback’s dream, and Hernstedt thoroughly enjoyed his time passing the ball on every down. The Bulldogs were a run-heavy team last season, and Hernstedt knows if the offense can consistently complete passes in 7 on 7s, there is a greater chance for more passing plays to be inserted into the playbook during the actual games.
“I’m just trying to give us more opportunities to show we can do this,” the incoming junior said. “I had one year at the quarterback position last year, which was kind of abrupt because of Covid and also because I wasn’t expected to play quarterback. So I need to settle in a little more and try to find my receivers, hit my receivers and get better at throwing. Last year we threw three, four, maybe five passes a game, so it’s good to be out here and get to know my receivers better.”
Hernstedt is one of the school’s premier athletes, as he also starred on the baseball team that advanced to the Central Coast Section Division V playoff semifinals, where it lost to Pacific Grove on June 16. The very next day, Hernstedt joined the football team for its daily conditioning sessions.
“I didn’t want to take any breaks,” he said. “Absolutely not. My body felt good and I needed to get some rust off for football. It was a transition being a little down from losing in CCS in baseball. But I came into football with a lot of energy and am excited for the season.”
As expected, Hernstedt and his receivers connected on some nice plays while also faltering on routes, dropped passes or inaccurate throws.
“We made some mistakes, but we’ll learn from them and get better,” Hernstedt said. “The main thing is we’re getting a good brotherhood going, coming together and I think we’re going to have a shocker of a season.”
Sobrato went 1-4 in coach Jubenal Rodriguez’s first season, but three of those losses came by four points or less. All signs point to the Bulldogs being primed for a bounceback season in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division. Rodriguez was simply happy being out on the field for the first 7 on 7 in two years (last year’s events were cancelled due to Covid).
“This feels too good to be true that we’re out here playing football in the summer,” he said. “I’m excited for where we are and where we’re headed. Seth is throwing the ball really well, and we have a lot of newcomers picking up the scheme really well. The ball was moving everywhere.”
Rodriguez was effusive in his praise for his entire seven member coaching staff. The team’s new defensive coordinator, Jerry Wyness, served in that same capacity at San Jose City College. Wide receivers/defensive backs coach Albert King and offensive line coach Fitu Tuua played with former Texans quarterback David Carr at Fresno State and several years in various pro indoor football leagues.
“Jerry coached many years at the JC level, Albert King brings tons of CCS championship experience and Fitu has so much knowledge to give to our linemen,” Rodriguez said.
The numbers are certainly healthier than last season, which saw the varsity team down to 17 players by the end. Rodriguez said he expects 65 to 70 players total in the junior varsity and varsity squads for the upcoming season.
“It finally feels like we’re a legitimate football program,” he said.