The Urbana High School varsity football team may have won the state championship last school year, but that doesn’t mean the players’ egos are over-inflated this year.
“[Last year’s win] was amazing; it was the best thing I could have asked for,” said Matt Juliano, an Urbana High School senior who is the team’s first string center. “We can’t forget [this year] that we still have to work hard. We were state champions last year, but that doesn’t mean anything [this year]. And we have to work harder this year because everyone is looking and we have a target on our back.”
To stay in shape during the off-season from January through the summer, players continued training. They attended football class, worked with professional trainers and made sure to eat right.
“Every day we’d do the finishers, where it could be gasers or 100-yard sprints,” said Mike Lowe, an Urbana High School senior who is a first string linebacker on the team.
Keeping in shape is key, said Head Coach Ryan Hines. If the team is in shape they can be fast on the field, he said.
“From day one, [Bobby Pritchett, special teams assistant coach for the football team,] said this team’s got a lot of potential, we’ve just got to point them in the right direction,” Hines said. “We had really good athletes. [The team] wasn’t very big or very strong, but we had probably an underrated team speed. I don’t think people thought [the team] were as fast as [they] were, which helped us out on defense.”
The two components needed for the players to be fast on the field are flexibility and the amount of effort they put into their off-season training, he said.
“You’ll see that the kids who are our best athletes are the most flexible,” Hines said. “And usually the ones that are the fastest are the ones that put the work in the off-season in the weight room and [with] any agility or speed training they might do.”
In addition to physically training, Hines is taking trips with some players and coaches to watch other teams play. This gives them a strategy to work with when facing another team on the field.
But most of all, the team needs to be smart. It’s more than what some people assume, such as the quarterback being the smartest guy, Hines said.
“Usually one of your offensive linemen will be the smartest [guy on the team],” he said. “Our right guard has a 4.0 [GPA] and our center, I think he got one B in Spanish III in all three years [that he’s been in high school].”
When it comes to leading the team this year, the seniors are ready.
Lowe hopes to be a good leader. “Last year, we had all the seniors so we didn’t need to lead, and now I’m a senior,” he said. “[A good leader] knows how to keep his cool when he needs to and speak out when he needs to.”