Staying Above Ground - Quarterback Scott Diaz (left) and receiver George Willkommm both seniors, are keys to a revamped passing game at Poly.

Parrots Have Had A Full Year To Learn Campos’ System

The grunts and groans of summer are in full swing at Poly High as the 2014 football team is taking shape. But these sounds of human construction are, in the mind of Coach Jose Campos, the beginning of a new foundation.

Campos was a junior varsity football coach and an assistant girls’ softball coach when he was given the varsity football head coach job last June — meaning he and his staff did not get a chance to start preparing the team for the 2013 season until very late in the game. There was no offseason program, and barely time to get ready for the actual fall season. Players recalled still having to learn plays in late October and early November.

Somehow the Parrots were successful. Poly was 9-5 overall, finished in a three-way tie for second in the East Valley League, and reached the City Division III championship game, losing to View Park.

Fast forward to now, and there is a perceptible level of confidence flowing on the practice field. Even with the loss of 25 seniors, the Parrots have more than a handful of returning players that, more importantly, have had a full off season and summer training program under Campos and his staff.

Campos is not predicting another run to the Division III championship game. But he’s not discounting it either.

“It doesn’t seem impossible that it can’t happen again,” Campos said. “We’re a little more inexperienced overall. But the great thing is, we experienced on the offensive line, and we’re experienced at quarterback. We lost 25 seniors, but kept 20 juniors who have experience playing at the varsity level. Hopefully, they want to come in and take us back [to the title game].”

But this is also about building a perpetual contender, and rebuilding a program that can also compete at higher levels, in the case that Poly is moved up when the City teams are realigned next year.

 “I’ve told people, whether colleagues or alumni, in football it takes any head coach 3-5 years to develop a good foundation and a program that’s going [forward],” Campos said. “Within the third year, you should notice some type of difference.

“For us, fortunately, we were able to change some things around in a year. A lot of people say it was luck, that I inherited a great team. But at the end of the day it still takes the team to buy in to your program, and it takes a coaching staff to do the countless hours of studying film and the other work prep for a game on Friday night. Building a program for Poly, for the kids that come in and see what we’ve done by the look and spirit from changing the weight program and having more people involved.”

The players are eagerly involved in this season for they, too, want to see how far they have come with having a full year being in Campos’ system. They also want to see how far they can go.

Quarterback Scott Diaz didn’t like the way the 2013 season ended, in particular his performance against View Park. He only completed 10 of 28 passes that day, with two interceptions. His only touchdown pass came with 1:16 remaining and the Knights ahead 46-6.

Asked what he remembered most about the defeat and Diaz, 17, a senior, doesn’t hesitate. “It was about decision-making,” he said. “I wasn’t making the throws…It was how they were defending and my receivers’ routes; I wasn’t adjusting to the coverages. They were a real good team, with good athletes.”

Poly was primarily a running team last year. The Parrots will still run the ball. But Diaz is also getting an expanded passing game as well in 2014, one the team has had all spring and summer to work on. No learning on the fly this time.

“The passing game will be wide open,” Diaz said, with a gleam in the eye.

One of his lead receivers will be George Willkomm, 18, a senior. Even though he was a two-way player last year, Willkomm’s main responsibility last year was on defense. This season he will be expected to give Diaz a consistently open target from the slot.

Willkomm was one Parrot ready for the winter and spring weight workouts.

“I had to work on my strength. I needed to be a lot stronger all over. So I lived in the weight room and ate,” said Willkomm, adding he’s gained 10 pounds of muscle and hopes to add more before the season starts.

The dedication is necessary, he said, for the Parrots to reach their goals. And Willkomm said the team has reason to believe they can be successful again.

“We could do better than last year because we are more comfortable with the system. We’ve implemented things a lot earlier this year,” Willkomm said

“We just need to execute the plays. We’ve got some speed and strength. Now it’s about the execution.”

They will have at least 10 opportunities to show what they’ve learned.