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Frog gridders enter year 2 under Byrnes

Jesse Jones / Union Democrat Bret Harte varsity head football coach Jon Brynes speaks to his players during the Bullfrogs’ first padded practice of the season Wednesday in Angels Camp.
It is year two of the Jon Byrnes era at Bret Harte High School.

After a tough 1-9 season in 2013, the Bullfrogs football team is hungry for success.

“We’ve had great practices so far this week without having any equipment on,” Byrnes said. “We’ve had complete focus at all levels. They’re a little bit more hungry for a win.”

The Bullfrogs held their first padded session of the 2014 season Wednesday in Angels Camp. The freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads all practiced as one unit and went through team and individual drills.

There are roughly 75 players in the football program from the freshmen to the varsity levels, and that’s a number Byrnes hopes to increase in the future.

“I like to have 90,” Byrnes said. “90 would be a great number, but we do have better numbers at JV and freshmen levels. Their summer commitment was great.”

With a year under the development of Byrnes and his coaching staff, players are getting more acclimated with the system and his expectations, and it’s helped with the growth and progression of the Bullfrogs.

“They put in a lot of time with our scheme,” Byrnes said. “They’re comfortable because they put in a lot of time in the summer time, so we’ve hit the ground running. We’re not starting. We’re just continuing.” 

For senior Logan Lowe, a starter since his sophomore season, familiarity with the coaching staff and schemes have helped him react faster to a play rather than questioning what he should or shouldn’t do.

Lowe was a first-team All-Mother Lode League selection at linebacker in 2013. He led the Bullfrogs with 102 tackles and added two sacks.

“You kind of know what to expect now,” Lowe said. “You’re not kind of waiting around and second guessing it. I think it’s definitely going to be a lot more comfortable.”

Although Byrnes invested a lot of time in building his program in the offseason, he also reached out to the Angels Camp-Murphys-Arnold youth teams.

“All the good programs — your Calaverases, your Escalons — they all have heavy influence on their youth programs,” Byrnes said. “They all run — at least schematically — they’re all running the same thing. So, that was my goal, to bring all the AMA and the Bret Harte teams all under one umbrella teaching wise. … Schematically, we’re all underneath one umbrella and that’s going to help us.”

Ideally, the AMA teams will run formations and plays similar to Bret Harte. By learning the system at an early age, in theory, players should be able to transition smoothly into the Bret Harte program.

“It should be like breathing,” Byrnes said. “You shouldn’t have to think about it.”

Bret Harte is expected to return six players each on both sides of the football, and with that experience coming back, Byrnes is tweaking his offensive and defensive schemes a bit to complement the team’s strengths.

The Bullfrogs, operating out of a split-back formation, were a run-first team in 2013.

However, Byrnes indicated he may opt for a more balanced attack this season. 

“We want to throw it 20 times a game if we can,” Byrnes said. “It opens up the running game if you can throw, so we been trying to work a lot on that this summer.”

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