PHS keeps midnight practice tradition alive
Nothing showed summer was over quite like running back Javier Benevidez scaling a fence at 11:58 p.m. Sunday night to rush and get ready for Porterville High School’s midnight practice.
Fall sports practice started Monday, and as they have done in the previous seasons under three-year head coach Michael Machado, the Panthers took full advantage of the special day with another midnight practice.
“You want to be the first team on the field and you want to be the last team off,” Machado said about the tradition. “The goal is to play into December and to play as long as they’ll let us play. We want to make sure that we seize every minute of the season and that’s why we want to get them out here as quickly as we can in the fall camp, which is midnight.”
There bright and early to participate in his second career midnight practice was quarterback Hector Nava Jr. The junior, who threw for 2,756 yards on 166 of 296 attempts with 23 touchdowns last season, said this season he was prepared for the early practice.
“Last time I learned not to stay up all day and get your rest,” Nava Jr. said. “And so this time, I got rest.”
He added, “It feels good (to) wake up first day and practice with our team.”
Porterville went 8-3 overall last season and earned the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division IV Championship tournament.
The team had an opening-round bye but lost in the quarterfinals 20-7 to No. 8 Wasco (9-4). It was a loss that the team will use as fuel this season.
“We’re ready for this season to get going,” Machado said. “It was a long offseason for us, like most teams that seasons don’t end the way they want it too. And so guys, and along with the coaching staff, are really ready for fall camp to open up. So a lot of excitement, a lot of focus tonight, and a lot of fun watching the kids just run around and play football.”
Another team to kickoff practice in the morning, albeit at 8 a.m., were the Cardinals of Lindsay.
“We tested for strength,” LHS head coach Matt Mendonca said about the practice. “We kind of went back and installed our stuff that we worked on in the spring. And we did condition, that was it today. It was mainly get the guys into camp and getting their testing numbers, their weight lifting numbers, and running them a little bit.”
Finally past the rebuilding stage last year, the Cardinals (6-5) showed their growth with a 37-34 Div. V opening-round upset of No. 4 Liberty-Madera (9-2) for the team’s first playoff win in five years.
Lindsay returns several key players, and with the Central Section moving the team down to Div. VI, the Cardinals are sure to be playing with a chip on their shoulder this season.
This season the Orange Belt’s only new head football coach is Monache’s Shane Focke. The Marauder grad has decades of experience as a CIF official and will be coaching players that he once coached at the youth level before seeing them again in high school.
Focke took the reins over from current El Diamante head coach, Chris Frankland, who was the Marauders’ coach the past two seasons. In his final year, Frankland led the team to a 7-5 overall season and a second-straight Div. IV quarterfinal game.
Speaking at his 3 p.m. practice Monday, Focke said players are already adjusting well to their new playbooks.
“We have a lot of smart kids,” he said. “So the players opening up a new playbook, it’s not that tough. To be honest, for the seniors, this is their third. And for the junior and sophomore class, this is only their second playbook. And let’s face it, you can’t invent anything new. Every football play has been invented...We’ve picked a concept that we think fits our athlete and we’re going to put that into play.”
According to the Central Section website, teams can begin practicing with pads this Saturday. The first local football games start on Friday, Aug. 23, while scrimmages will be played the week before.