JANSEN: New schools build tradition from scratch

sjansen@mercedsunstar.comAugust 29, 2013 

On the third official day of football practice, the sprinklers came on in the early evening at brand new El Capitan High.

The players quickly scrambled to get bags and equipment into the shed away from the water.

Thinking practice was over, the players headed for the locker room.

Not so fast.

"I pulled them all back on the field," Gauchos head coach Rene Asencio said. "I asked them if we've ever left practice without a 'Gaucho break?' "

The Gaucho break starts with all the players gathered around. Together they begin a slow clap. The pace picks up quicker and quicker, until it's what Asencio describes as a free for all. With the players in a frenzy, one player will count out "one-two-three" and the team will bellow out Gauchos.

"We don't change stations in practice without a break," Asencio said. "We don't go home until we get our Gaucho break."

Asencio has the rare privilege of not just coaching football this season. He's the architect of Gaucho football, starting a program from scratch.

Asencio has a blank canvas to work with when it comes to tradition.

Like El Capitan, Pacheco High in Los Banos still has that new-school smell.

Panthers head coach David Snapp took on the gargantuan task of starting a program three years ago.

"I think it's huge when you're trying to build tradition," said Snapp, who led the Panthers to the playoffs in just their second season of varsity football last year. "Everything we do here is 'the first.' We want to instill the right pride and legacy that will last forever.

"We just had our first senior class leave us and I wanted to make sure their names are prominent in the weight room."

Snapp keeps lists of records in the weight room. Players can reach the 650-, 750- and 1,000-pound weight clubs based on combining the total pounds lifted in three different lifts.

The Panthers have started other traditions like the way they enter their on-campus stadium for home games.

The team makes the walk through campus, cuts through the tennis courts and enters the field from a side gate on the visitors side.

"When we take the field we rush toward our home stands," Snapp said. "After the time changes, and it gets dark earlier, it's like we explode out of the darkness."

The most important tradition Snapp wants to establish is a great relationship with the community.

"Los Banos High has a firm grip on the town, but it's evening up a little," Snapp said. "Football is important in this town, but it can get a bad rap if we're always asking what can you do for me? I'm consistently asking what can we do for you?

"We had a free youth football camp this summer. We had 20 players out there painting over graffiti the other day. We do a toy drive. We really want to be a part of this community."

If Asencio has his way you won't see any grand entrances for the Gauchos.

"I would prefer that they just walk in quietly," he said. "I'm not big on hype. We don't need a bunch of yelling and screaming. It's time for business. We prepared all week. Now it's time to show what we've got."

Asencio does plan on one postgame tradition for home games.

After shaking hands with the opponent, Gaucho players will stand in front of the band as they play the school's alma mater with their helmets raised high.

"To me, it's going to be a sign of respect for the school, the fans, our supporters and the community," Asencio said.

Football is a sport rich with tradition.

Some of the traditions attached to college programs are well known like Notre Dame players touching the "Play Like a Champion Today" sign as they leave the locker room, Florida fans doing their Gator Chomp or the Sooner Schooner racing around the field before Oklahoma games.

High school football programs are loaded with their own traditions as well.

In our special football section preview this year we set out to shine the light on some of the traditions our local football teams hold dear.

In this issue you'll read about sledgehammers, pride drills, pride points, alley walks and 20-Harley salutes, just to name a few.

It's been enjoyable for us to hear the passion in the voices of coaches and players as they talk about their traditions.

Once again, thanks to all the coaches and players who took the time to help us put this preview section together and good luck this season.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsunstar.com.

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