Football: Sage Hill players will claim bigger role

Coach Tolver, aiming to return to playoffs in his fourth season, plans to hand over more ownership to his players.

August 13, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Harrison Ray received some seasoning at quarterback last season. He may play there, or at receiver in 2012.
Harrison Ray received some seasoning at quarterback… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Like many young high school football coaches, J.R. Tolver wants to be in control of everything. He learned last year, his third season at the helm of Sage Hill School, that isn't possible.

The team lost seven games, as many as it did in Tolver's first two seasons at the school. One of those games Tolver wasn't even around to coach. He missed it because an official ejected him for arguing with officials after a game.

The losses piled up and Sage Hill went on to finish third in the Academy League and miss the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs for the first time under Tolver.

Getting back to the postseason is the goal for the Lightning. The coach's approach to leading his team there will be much different this season.

Tolver, 32, is going to put his players in position to take over the team.

"One of the things I realized is that I can't control everything, because once seven o'clock on Friday night hits, it's now out of my hands," said Tolver, whose team finished 3-7, 1-3 in league last year. "My kids have to go out there, and they have to not only make the plays that are given to them, but motivate and encourage their teammates to do the same.


"We're really going to put our kids in a position to lead one another."

One way to do that is to leave his players in charge.

Players will run some practices, while Tolver said he and the rest of his staff watch from the stands drinking lemonade. If Tolver has a sour look on his face, it won't be because of the drink.

"It's going to be tough," Tolver said of following the player-run practices without him being in control.

The team's first chance at being on its own is Friday. Here are the players who will run the show:

Quarterback: Harrison Ray is the starter and the senior has experience. He stepped in last year for a handful of games after a leg injury plagued standout Taylor Petty's season.

The offense changes, though, going from the Wildcat to the pistol. Ray will still take the snap in shotgun formation, but closer to the center.

"We're hoping that we'll be able to throw the ball," said Tolver, whose team struggled moving the ball through the air last season.

Backing up Ray is sophomore CJ McCord, a transfer from Edison. The third quarterback is freshman Griffin Vrabeck.

Running backs: Charlie Kim takes over after first-team All-Academy League tailback Eric Cheng graduated.

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