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Spartans football shapes up in spring practice under new Coach James Sims

Football: La Cañada has already acclimated to new Coach James Sims in spring practice sessions.

June 07, 2012|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — There's plenty for the La Cañada High football team to learn in spring practice under its first-year Coach James Sims.

Sims, who made the move from Hawthorne High in Jacksonville, Fla., started the Spartans out with a back-to-basics approach. His first goal was to get his team in shape and of course to buy into his hard-work philosophy.

About a month into spring practices, Sims already likes what he's seen from La Cañada and has high hopes for the upcoming season.

"It is going to be a different team," said Sims, who's also brought a new coaching staff with him that includes a former St. Francis football player, two La Cañada Gladiators coaches and a former Temple City coach. "It is hard for me to say because I haven't seen the competition, but I am pleased with where we are at."

Matt Jones, who returns to lead La Cañada at quarterback for his senior year, said Sims has won the team over already.

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"Coach Sims is revolutionizing the program and he is having us work really hard and putting us in the best position to win," Jones said. "From a player's point of view that's all you can really ask for."

Sims likes the way La Cañada has responded, with the team taking to plenty of conditioning drills and a stronger emphasis on the weight room.

"I like the work ethic here — second to none," said Sims, who used to be a competitive body builder and has run a conditioning camp for 12 years. "The weight room has become amazing, I got them enjoying the weight room. Most of the [lifting] records in there are from 2008, 2009, I told them I don't want anything before 2012 on that board by the end of the year."

The changes have been embraced by La Cañada's Andrew Paynter, who returns as the Spartans' primary running back.

"It's a lot different [this year], but I like it," Paynter said. "It's helpful, I am getting a lot stronger and faster."

With the Spartans in shape, they've delved into Sims' playbook, which includes a wide variety of formations on both offense and defense.

The key for La Cañada and Sims will be keeping teams guessing with balance and plenty of different looks on both ends of the ball.

"I have always been a good chess player and I understand you need to play football like a game of a chess," Sims said.

On defense, the Spartans are working on establishing their base 4-4 defense, out of which they'll shift into 5-3 and 6-2 sets.

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