Road Warriors

Area's 4 remaining playoff teams have long trips ahead

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comNovember 13, 2012 

Rick Martinez has prepared teams for long road trips before.

It was only last year the Le Grand head football coach had to plan a trip to Carson for a state bowl game.

So it wasn't long after the Bulldogs' 50-12 playoff win over Rio Vista last week that he started putting together the itinerary for this week's journey to Garden Valley for Le Grand's Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 semifinal matchup against Golden Sierra.

Martinez had a charter bus to reserve, meals to plan and some how find a way to fit a three-hour trip into their usual game-day routine.

"As a coach, you're always concerned about the mind-set of your players any time you have to play on the road," Martinez said. "We've been stressing to the kids that at 12 o'clock on Friday, we're punching the clock. It's time to go to work.

"We don't want to look at this trip as a chore, but it's just something we have to do. It's a business trip. We're calling ourselves 'Road Warriors.' "

All four area teams left in the playoffs will hit the road for long trips in the second round on Friday. Le Grand, Buhach Colony, Los Banos and Chowchilla will travel a combined 990 miles round trip to their playoff destinations.

The trips aren't cheap.

The Sac-Joaquin Section will reimburse each team $3 per mile for travel expenses. The section will cut Le Grand a check for $1,014. The charter bus is costing Le Grand $1,300. Martinez estimates it will cost the program about $300 each for pregame and postgame meals for the players.

"Our plan is to leave at noon with maybe a packed lunch," Martinez said. "We might stop midway, but we want to get there by 5 p.m. Hopefully we can get through the rush-hour traffic in Sacramento."

The biggest wrinkle with these long trips is trying to keep the game-day routines as close as possible.

Buhach Colony usually starts preparation on game days during sixth period. That's an athletic period for the football team. That's when they can watch film, go over plays and schemes in chalk-talk and conduct team meetings.

After school, the players prepare their bags and load the bus to head to the stadium for a home game.

"There's quite a bit of logistics that go into it to fit a two-and-a-half-hour trip into the routine," said Buhach Colony head coach Kevin Swartwood, whose team will travel 121 miles from Atwater to Antelope. "We'll probably have to get an early release for the kids so that we can have the chalk-talk and film sessions during fifth period.

"We'll ask parents to make a meal on the go that we can eat on the bus. We'll use that travel time as our team meal time. They can rest, sleep or listen to music. We want to get there at five, which would be the same time we arrive at our field for a home game."

The challenge for coaches is to make sure their players are ready to go when they step off the bus.

Los Banos head coach Dustin Caropreso plans on picking an inspirational movie to show the players during their 124-mile trip to Sacramento to play Capital Christian.

"That hardest thing about traveling is if you end up on the other side when it all comes out and you do lose, now you're on a two-hour bus ride home that seems like four hours," Caropreso said. "We're going to do our best to avoid that."

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