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La Cañada High football hopes changes pay off

Football: Spartans will rely on their defense to keep them in games this season, as they look to rebound from a 2-8 year.

August 31, 2013|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

LA CAÑADA — There’s just a different feel to the La Cañada High football team leading into the 2013 season, because paradoxically, things are just about the same as last year.

After being hired in late March of 2012, James Sims has an entire season and offseason under his belt as the Spartans coach.

“It feels a lot different,” Sims said. “Last year I didn't get here until April, so we were trying to rush to get everything done and try to get the system in. Now, we were able to start as soon as the season ended in November.”

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The second-year Spartans coach used the time to increase his team’s presence in the weight room, requiring all varsity starters to meet a 200-pound bench and 300-pound squat requirement. He started with one eligible player and now has 30.

Not only have the Spartans bulked up, but they bought in, according to junior tight end and defensive end Todd Murray.

“We have a different mentality,” Murray said. “Coach tried to instill the mentality in us last year, some of the seniors weren’t really into it, but this year many more kids have bought in, especially the underclassmen, like my class and the sophomores, we’ve really gotten into it.”

In order to do so, Sims has simplified his playbook and will run the fly offense, a spread out version of the wing-T, while looking to pass the ball more effectively than last year.

Quarterback Robbie Fuelling, who’s also noticed a different air to 2013, returns for his senior year after appearing in nine games and starting the second half of the 2012 season.

“Our personnel and our whole team has really meshed together better than last year,” Fuelling said. “Last year was really a transition period, so we were just adjusting to the coaching staff and stuff, but now I feel like our whole offense and defense has really bonded together.”

It’s on the defensive side of the ball that the Spartans find their strength. They’re most stout up front with a big line of senior tackles Guillermo Padilla and Adam Fazzi, who’ll also start on the offensive line, and ends D’Andre Sims and Murray.

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