Southridge High School football coach Keith Munson had a few parting words for his players after practice one day last week: “Little boys do what they want; men do what they need to.”
Not bad advice for the Suns, who are coming off last year’s disappointing 2-5 showing in the Mid-Columbia Conference and 4-6 overall record.
Things are different this season for Southridge, starting with first-year coach Munson. He replaces Tony Reiboldt, who resigned after five years at the helm and a 28-33 record.
Munson, who played college football at Montana Tech, has 22 years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels.
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He was the defensive coordinator at Belen High School (N.M) last year. He also was an assistant at Valencia High School in Los Lunas, N.M., for Kevin Jolley, who took the head-coaching job at Pasco High School last fall.
The Southridge players quickly warmed up to Munson.
“Having a new coach is like meeting new people and having new experiences,” senior running back Zayid Al-Ghani said. “The chemistry is different, and everyone is buying into the program.”
Added senior quarterback Mason Martin: “We are playing for each other. There is discipline, and he has knowledge of the game. Those years of experience are rubbing off on us.”
Last year’s team was short on senior leadership, but the Suns have 20 this season, led by Al-Ghani (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) and Martin (6-1, 185).
“We have seen some good things,” Munson said. “They seem to understand. Now we just need to polish it. They executed our offense well at the Tri-City camp. We are looking right now where I thought we’d be. The effort is there. Our top players are going against each other. Iron sharpens iron.”
The Suns number about 60 strong, so keeping things simple is key to having success.
“My philosophy on offense and defense is to pare things down to a scheme that can be understood,” Munson said. “We have contingency plans. We can dial up a blitz at any time.”
Offensively, Al-Ghani rushed for 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The Suns ran for 2,384 yards while passing for just 264.
“We run a package called the option,” Munson said with a smile. “We will do things with the pass and the rush, and see what the defense gives us. There’s always a little nuance once the game gets started.”
Martin, who threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns last year, is looking to pick up a bit more work this fall.
“It’s good to switch things up,” Martin said. “Last year, we ran 80 percent of the time. There will be a little rest for Zayid. We will need him later in the season.”
Al-Ghani is thankful for the change.
“We are more balanced,” he said. “It’s nice to switch from run to pass and not do the same thing over and over.”
On the other side of the ball, the Suns return second-team all-conference defensive back Derrick Gillespie, who led the MCC last season with six interceptions
Another addition to the system this season is a large group of players who sat out the past year or two for one reason or another.
The 20 seniors on the roster went undefeated as freshmen, and Martin is happy the gang is back together.
“It’s good to be back with all my guys,” Martin said. “I know we can do some good things out there.”
Getting in shape
Nicole Hatcher will be the first to admit she doesn’t know a lot about football. But the former Southridge and Washington State track star does know how to keep in shape.
Hatcher, the boys track coach at Southridge, took an interest in what the football coaches were drawing up on the board one day. Munson knew she had been working with the summer conditioning program, and the two got to talking.
Now, Hatcher is a football coach. She is the Suns’ conditioning coach and puts the running backs through agility drills. The players do what they are told.
“She is making us better,” Al-Ghani said. “She knows what she is talking about with conditioning.”
Hatcher gets the players the last 15 minutes of practice. Last week, they ran sprints, followed by a modified bear crawl. The players were in a plank position and had to move forward on their forearms and toes. Most could not do it properly.
“That was nothing,” Al-Ghani said. “You should have seen what we did yesterday.”
For Munson, it is one part of practice he does not have to worry about.
“She does an awesome job,” Munson said. “Sometimes you get away from the physical conditioning. You can’t overlook that.”
Break it down
2015: 2-5 MCC, 4-6 overall.
MCC rakings: Offense seventh (264.8 ypg); defense third (299.2)
Top stat returners: Rushing — Zayid Al-Ghani 1,255 yards, 11 TDs; Samuel Kori 449 yards, 2 TDs. Passing — Mason Martin 20-74-5-214, 2 TDs. Defense — Derrick Gillespie 6 INT
Key games: Sept. 23, at Richland; Oct. 7, at Chiawana; Oct. 28, vs. Kamiakin
Mid-Columbia Conference 2015