Following a disappointing 6-5 season, Gregori High football coach Jason McCoy went back to the drawing board.
But not before making a detour first.
Before setting the Jaguars’ spring and summer course, McCoy looked himself in the mirror and asked a difficult question: “What more could I have done?”
The three-part answer set the framework for the offseason.
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McCoy identified three areas of concern during his moment of reflection: the weight room, practice efficiency and leadership.
All three conspired against the Jaguars in 2015, spoiling a season of such promise. Gregori was The Bee’s preseason pick to win the Modesto Metro Conference and rocketed out to a 3-0 start, but limped to the finish with losses in five of its next eight games.
“This offseason we have three areas we really want to get better at,” said McCoy, who has an overall record of 22-20 with three consecutive winning seasons at Gregori. “One was in the weight room. We had outstanding workouts from January all the way up to present time. We want to be the strongest team in the MMC, and I think we’re on our way.
“No. 2, we wanted to have crisp practices – more efficient, better tempo, being faster with guys doing stuff.
“Now the third part is leadership. We wanted to develop leaders within our program, so we held leadership counsel meetings in the offseason and met with some of our guys this summer just to build more leadership. With those three things we needed improvement on, I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
McCoy praised a nucleus of nine players for taking the reins. Those nine include four-year players Adrian Leal and Tony Cristobal, and junior quarterback Bobby Avina.
“We’re trying to be nine units strong; every position has a leader,” McCoy said. “Those are our (110) percent guys, guys who just get it done and are all-in. They’ve recruited some guys, so we’re happy with where we’re at, but we’re trying to get better every single day. We’re looking to compete this year.”
Gregori showed its fight when playing without four playmakers, including Cristobal, at the Modesto Junior College Passing Tournament on Saturday. The Jaguars pushed city rival Modesto into overtime in an opening-game loss.
Avina’s arrival at the varsity coincides with a systemic change. McCoy wants to ratchet up the speed play and attack downfield, using Avina’s arm and the weapons around him.
Avina has shined on the summer circuit. He was named the Offensive MVP at the Quick 6 Golden State 7-on-7 Championship in May while playing for Valley’s Got Talent, a travel team made up of many of the Stanislaus District’s standouts.
“He’s learning and has room for improvement, but he’s a kid that’s all-in. He’s at every practice, and he wants to do everything he can to get better,” McCoy said. “He’s putting himself in a position to do a good job. He’s a hungry kid. He’s a competitor, and that’s what we want at that quarterback position. We need the ultimate competitor.”
Gregori will split its nonconference schedule between Stockton and Merced. The Jaguars open the season on the road at Chavez (Aug. 26) and Merced at Golden Valley High (Sept. 2), and then host El Capitan (Sept. 9) and McNair (Sept. 16) before beginning league play.
“We have high expectations,” McCoy said. “No. 1, we want to win a championship, and we want to host a playoff game. Those are two things that didn’t happen. Anytime that doesn’t happen you have to take some ownership, and I’ll take it from the top.
“I have to get better in some areas, and then our kids have to take some ownership. We’re owning up to everything we need to get better at. Last year, we didn’t get it done.”