El Molino thankful for holiday practice

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

At 8 this morning, while players from most schools still alive in the North Coast Section playoffs are still asleep, El Molino’s squad will be in full-gear and already on the practice field.
It’s not that Lions coach Mike Roan is a sadist, nor does he think Thanksgiving is a foolish holiday.

Roan played six years in the NFL and one of the lessons he learned is that a team needs to keep its routine during game weeks. So, with his team scheduled to travel to Middletown for a Division IV playoff quarterfinal Saturday night, Roan said it was a given his team needed to practice on Thanksgiving.

“The players and coaches will be on the field at 8 a.m. ready to go,” Roan said. “We’ll be done by 10:30 or 11. We’ll focus on third down situations, blitzes and special teams.
“Since we usually play Fridays, but our opening round NCS game was last Saturday (a 35-0 win over Kelseyville), the Thanksgiving practice will cover the things we normally do at a Wednesday practice.”

Roan learned first-hand how coaches at football’s highest levels prepare when a holiday falls in the same week as a game.
The 38-year-old coach played tight end for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans from 1995 to 2000. The franchise moved from Houston to Tennessee prior to the 1997 season.
Roan came out of the University of Wisconsin and was chosen in the fourth round of the 1995 NFL draft.

The coach broke the news to his players about the early Thanksgiving practice minutes after they defeated Kelseyville in the first football playoff game ever hosted by the Forestville school.

“I learned staying on a practice routine is very important to a team’s preparation,” Roan said. “We’ve worked hard to get this far and the coaches and players all know what’s at stake. One loss and the season’s over.

“We’ve had a good week practicing and we’re going to work hard Thanksgiving morning before going home to spend the rest of the day with our families. We’re anticipating a tough game against a very good Middletown team.”

The Lions have a 7-4 record, their first winning season since 2003. In those losing years, their record was 15-45. El Mo dropped to Division IV this year because of dwindling enrollment.

At least two other teams from the Redwood Empire will practice this morning. Casa Grande and St. Vincent, both in Petaluma, have 9 a.m. practices scheduled.
Casa, the Sonoma County League champs, will drill until 10:30 in preparation for its Saturday night home game against Northgate.

St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway plans to have his team on the field until noon in preparation for Saturday night’s Division V battle at Tomales.

“We’ll start out watching video of Tomales,” said Galloway, who has coached at St. Vincent since 1984. “Then we’ll go on the field and practice how to stop Tomales from doing what they do best on both sides of the ball.”

The teams met Sept.11 on St. Vincent’s artificial turf with the Mustangs prevailing, 35-8.
Casa coach Trent Herzog said today’s practice will be like any other leading up to a weekend game.

“We’ll work the offense, defense and special teams,” Herzog said. “Casa has a tradition of practicing on Thanksgiving if we’re still in NCS. The kids and their families know it’s an important practice day. No one has a problem with it.

“Our team is a family, so we don’t look at it as taking the players away from their family. The kids will be home by 11 a.m.”

It appears weather will be a factor this weekend. The U.S. Weather Service is calling for a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday with a low of 37 degrees. Friday’s forecast is a little better with a 30 percent chance of rain and temperatures dropping to 40 in the evening.
Most Empire teams will be playing on natural grass. Those fields were drenched by rain last Saturday and are already muddy. More rain will make the conditions treacherous.
Empire teams playing on Friday: Maria Carrillo at Concord, and Clayton Valley at Rancho Cotate (both Division II games), Cardinal Newman traveling to Oakland to face Bishop O’Dowd (Division III) and Fort Bragg at Healdsburg (Division IV).

On Saturday, the Empire teams playing are: Northgate at Casa Grande (Division II), El Molino at Middletown (Division IV) and St. Vincent at Tomales (Division V).
Kickoff is 7 p.m. for all games.