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Warriors kick off football season with new coach, new offense

 

Last updated 8/28/2017 at Noon



The Fallbrook High football team kicks off its 2017 season Friday (Aug. 25) in San Diego, where the Warriors will exhibit a new offense under a new coach while trying to extract a road win against Westview High.

The Warriors are opening a season with a new head man for the second consecutive year. Last year’s team was coached by Bob Burt, who replaced Kyle Williams, who left Fallbrook for Westview. The Warriors went 1-9 in their lone season under the then 75-year-old Burt, who announced at the team’s end-of-season banquet that he was resigning.

The Fallbrook Union High School District selected Darius Pickett out of more than two dozen candidates to replace Burt. Pickett’s experience includes 10 years as an assistant coach at Oceanside High – during which time the school won five consecutive (2006-2010) CIF San Diego Section championships as well as three others (2012, 2014, 2015) – and one year (2016) as a head coach at Francis Parker.

Going from a powerhouse like Oceanside to Francis Parker, which fielded just 22 kids for football, enabled Pickett to gain some experience that has helped him with his new assignment at Fallbrook, which has 31 players on its varsity roster.

“Taking over a small program last year and dealing with numbers issues has helped me here,” said Pickett. “That's something I've dealt with before.”

Pickett also learned what it’s like to be a head coach, and that he is up to the task.

“Game management and working with the staff and making sure everybody is on the same page,” said Pickett of lessons learned at Francis Parker. “Having that under my belt just gives me more confidence coming into this position, knowing that I can do it."

Pickett’s Francis Parker team went 2-8 in a tough season but gained the admiration of their coach.

“I’m very proud of those kids,” said Pickett. “We had 22 kids total, and nine of those 22 were freshman.”

Pickett takes over a Fallbrook team that lost four first-team all-league selections to graduation last spring, and a squad that has only one returning starter, offensive and defensive lineman Mikell Jackson.

Fallbrook’s roster includes 17 seniors, including Jackson, Alvin Figueroa (slot receiver and defensive back) and Julian Arteaga (wide receiver and defensive back) – a trio that Pickett said has established themselves as “vocal leaders.” Pickett credited all the seniors for being able to adapt to their third coach in as many years.

“I think the seniors have been committed and dedicated even though they've went through all this transition with coaches,” said Pickett.

In addition to adjusting to a new coaching staff, players have also had to learn the spread offense that Pickett has elected to employ this season. The spread offense "spreads" the defense by using multiple receiver sets.

“I like it because if we don't have the talent (matchup), it's still stressing the defense because you still have to guard the whole field,” said Pickett. “You just can't load up the box and stop the run. It kind of limits what you can do as a defensive coach. I think it gives us an advantage regardless of where our weaknesses are.”

Pickett noted that Fallbrook has traditionally been a run oriented, “pound the ball” program.

“A lot of schools are running the spread, but Fallbrook hasn’t been one of those schools in the past to run it,” said Pickett. “So it was probably very uncomfortable for a lot of the kids. Now I think we're settling in and starting to get more comfortable and more confident."

Jake McBroom, who will start at quarterback for the Warriors, has impressed Pickett with the way he has picked up the new offense.

“Out of all the positions, I would say he has grown the most,” said Pickett of McBroom. “It’s not only learning a new system. The spread offense puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and I think he's handled it as well as anybody could. He's a junior, so that's even more exciting for me. He’s a great kid who has great character and handles himself very well, so I'm very impressed with him.”

Another junior who has impressed Pickett is linebacker Corbin Nash, who has exhibited leadership skills directing the defense.

“He's a junior, but he has a good mind for the game, an understanding,” said Pickett. “He's definitely being very vocal for us and helping the guys out, putting them in the right position and things like that.”

Overall, Pickett said the Warriors are a balanced team, with "solid" offensive and defensive lines, and playmakers on both sides of the ball.

"It's not like some teams, where it's one or two guys," said Pickett. "I think we have solid contributors at each position."

Pickett, well aware that the 2016 Warriors went 1-9, was asked what he thought was a reasonable goal for the 2017 squad.

"Realistically, if we are healthy, I would say .500 (5-5)," said Pickett. "I would say that would be a realistic goal for us. At least that's my goal."

The Warriors play their first two games on the road – at Westview (Aug. 25) and Del Norte (Sept. 1) – before hosting Torrey Pines in their home opener Sept. 8 at Fallbrook Stadium.

"I'm expecting a fun and exciting season," said Pickett. "If we're healthy and we have our full team, I think we'll be a very competitive team this year."

 

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