CALIPATRIA, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Walking onto Veterans' Field on a warm August morning, head coach Tony Leon knows he has his work cut out for him. But he is no stranger to building a program from the ground up.
"I come from Brawley High School where I did a little bit of coaching football in my earlier years," said first-year head coach Tony Leon. "But then I to coach the wrestling team [at Brawley] where I was coaching for over 30 years."
Coaching a new sport at a different school may be challenging for any first-year coach, but Leon believes that the process should be the same.
"It's really the same mentality," said Leon. "You got to bring some hard work here and you got to be able to adapt to anything that comes into your life."
Coach Leon has the added benefit of a strong junior class that has played all sports since their freshman year.
Quarterback Caleb Spence and halfback Dominic Hawk believe the Hornets are ready to take that next step as a program.
"He motivates us, he cares about us and he cares about the program," said Spence. "It takes guts to come down to Calipat after coaching at Brawley and picking up a program that's been down for a couple of years now. He's helping us get our program back to how it used to be."
Calipatria over the years has struggled with not having an off-season program. That's something Leon addressed head-on this year and his players are already feeling the difference.
"So we had to bring in a weight lifting program, a running program, a stretching program," said Leon. "Once you have those things in place, then you got to put in a simple offense that they can work off of."
"Compared to last year, I joined a little late and I didn't have the training I do right now," said junior halfback Dominic Hawk. "I feel a little stronger, faster, and just improving."
While coach Leon is hoping for the best for his young Hornets, he knows that building the foundation for the future is what will bring ultimate success this season.
"I want them to believe in themselves and I want them to gain some confidence as the season moves along," said Leon. "I'm starting to see a lot of that confidence. These kids want to be in the weight room now, they want to be out here throwing and running the ball. I just want them to believe in themselves and believe in this team and what they have."