PASO ROBLES — Football is finally upon us. On Monday afternoon the Paso Robles Bearcats opened training camp in a helmets-only practice following a session in the gym. Third-year head coach JR Reynolds was walking around the field donning a crisp crimson visor giddy like it was Christmas morning as he is excited to get the season started and get the Paso Robles culture back to where it needs to be.
“A big thing going into this offseason for us was wanting to get the culture back to what Bearcat football is all about,” Reynolds said. “Being respectful, being hardnosed, knocking someone to the ground, smile and help them back up, that kind of stuff. Being role models on campus and in the classroom. When we decided to do that I instantly thought I needed Tim Alvord to come help with that because he is the epitome of Bearcat football. He has coached me and been around way longer than that so getting him back is huge for us.”
Alvord is a Bearcat legend that has helped lead Paso Robles to the promised land before and hopes to do it again and help them solidify a defense that allowed 39 points per game in the Mountain League a year ago.
One thing that is clear after only a day at the Bearcats practice is that they have speed this season and an abundance of skilled weapons. Paso Robles already returns Gerald Norte, who missed most of last season due to injury, and Seth Maldonado but have also added two players who transferred into Paso Robles in the past year.
“We got the addition of a transfer student in Benny Johnson [from Georgia] who will play running back and some corner,” Reynolds said. “And then we got another kid from a Paso family that decided to move back to Paso in Dean Connors who transferred in from Hawaii who will be a junior.”
Reynolds and the coaching staff are positive about the offseason program and the work they put in saying it was, “one of our better summers that we have had.”
Part of what made the offseason so successful was the continuing emergence of Braden Waterman as the team's signal-caller. Waterman is the “undisputed” guy according to Reynolds and has been working with quarterbacks coach Adrian Pennywell. The junior quarterback delivered some beautiful passes going against the defense in 7-on-7 and had a great command of the huddle.
The other big coaching move made by the Bearcats this offseason was Reynolds' decision to take over the playcalling. The offense looked fast on the turf, mostly in the gun, at Paso Robles High School and did a great job of maximizing the space of the field and utilizing their playmakers.
The Bearcats will be only in helmets all this week before they start the clanging and banging next week. The first football game is less than a month away as Paso Robles will host Bakersfield-Liberty on Aug. 23.