Photo by Gerald Castillo
Rattlers making strides, ‘engaged’ in spring practice
Ronnie Perez was going too fast.
The tight end was lined up on the left side of the field inside the San Marcos football indoor practice facility on Wednesday. He burst off the line of scrimmage and shaked his defenders to free himself.
The ball was thrown, targeted for him, spiraling toward the middle of the field. If he maintained the speed he was running at, he’d get to the spot too soon. Instead, Perez dropped his hips, cut to the right, decelerated and made the catch in stride.
“Ronkowski!” San Marcos head coach Mark Soto shouted, calling Perez by his nickname referring to former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. “That man is making plays!”
It was a good play by Perez. He had another handful of them throughout practice. They weren’t perfect, but they didn’t need to be yet. For Soto, spring ball is about the Rattlers learning about what they are capable of.
That includes himself. During the offseason, Soto and his staff spent two days a week teaching character lessons, educating the players on what it takes to be a leader of the team. Now, he’s seeing the results on the field.
“It’s really paid off because it’s proving in the way (the players are) responding to our coaching,” Soto said. “When a kid wants to be here and they are engaged, just like in any setting, it’s awesome. It’s easy to coach. It’s fun to coach with them. You tend to push them hard, you coach them hard and the response is always the same, which is positive. And it just makes for a more positive environment for us. It’s a coach’s dream to have a coachable team. And for us to have that team where we are right now is important.”
The main emphasis for San Marcos this spring is to memorize the X’s and O’s of the offensive and defensive schemes. The more the Rattlers can remember this spring, the more time they can spend working on conditioning and execution in the fall.
Soto said the team has worked hard to get there so far. Junior linebacker Ryan Wilder agreed.
“There’s a lot of effort from everybody,” Wilder said. “We come here every morning, every day. We go, we hit each other, we get bumps and bruises and we just come together.”
There’s still a long way to go. But the progress is visible.
“The first couple days of spring ball were slow,” Perez said. “But after it keeps going on, week-by-week, we’re getting better.”
San Marcos’ spring scrimmage takes place May 10 at 6 p.m. inside San Marcos Toyota Rattler Stadium.