Tuesday morning, the Palm Springs football team took the practice field for the squad’s third mandatory practice in a little more than 24 hours. Youthful players learned the basics of blocking on the offensive line, while others built strength running while chained to tires or high-stepping through drills.
Head coach Dan Murphy’s roster was outfitted in their own white t-shirts, but if you knew what the Indians had accomplished less than one year ago, you could make out the bright red target on their backs.
After a playoff run capped with a 24-21 win over Serrano in the CIF Southern Section Eastern Division Championship, the Indians were excited to get back to work this week, but long gone are the days of sneaking by under the radar.
“Last year, no one expected us,” Murphy said. “I mean, they thought we could compete, but now I have to remind them all the time ‘You’re not last year’s team.’ Hopefully if we do it enough, it starts to sink in.”
Although the Indians did graduate a few key players in seniors Ryan Koehler, Marcos Sainz and Riley Hagar, among others, Murphy is far from having a rebuilding year on his hands.
Incoming senior Will Olvera has three seasons under his belt while under center and is coming off an All-CIF caliber season, along with fellow seniors Franklin Miller and Tayler Hawkins — both three-way players on the field.
Hawkins’ brother Tyler, who missed more than five months after undergoing shoulder surgery last summer, should bring additional firepower to an already stout defense, if he can stay healthy.
Both Murphy and Olvera sang the praise of incoming junior Josh Barlow, who appears to be the favorite to take the load in the backfield alongside the four-year starter.
Saying Olvera sounded confident in his teammates Tuesday would be an understatement.
“We lost a couple kids, but we’ve got 10 kids in a group that can really make a difference and help win us another CIF title,” he said. “The kids that participated in the CIF game last year, they’re anxious. They don’t want to lose their title. They want to stay CIF champions, especially the seniors; we want to stay CIF champions and have two rings to always remember in the future.”
During practice, Murphy said he doesn’t hear much talk about the magical run the Indians completed less than a year ago. No one’s showing off their flashy rings or admiring a championship banner.
“They don’t really talk about it,” Murphy said. “I mean, we remind them as coaches that you do have a target on your back, but there’s a sense of quietness to them. They just go about their business.”
Olvera’s confidence doesn’t come off boastful. Winning another title seems like a job he’s ready to tackle in stride, and the rest of his teammates appeared ready to follow.
The Indians sauntered off the practice field Tuesday morning with their cleats click-clacking on the pavement, those once-white T-shirts stained with sweat and dirt.
“I think we’re working even harder,” Miller said. “We’re going to push guys even harder, because we know we have a target on our backs. … I’ve been meeting with kids outside of practice, and we’ve been working at it.
“Hopefully we can get there again.”
OPENING WEEK GAMES
The season is fast approaching. Here are the opening-night games for desert teams on Aug. 28
•Palm Springs at Tahquitz
•La Quinta at Chaparral
•Palm Desert at San Jacinto
•Cathedral City at DHS
•Desert Mirage at Indio
•Notre Dame at Xavier Prep
•Rancho Mirage at Coachella Valley
•Perris at Shadow Hills
•Desert Christian Academy at Lancaster Baptist