Football is back in the North County! The Bearcats are coming out this season under the new leadership of former NFL linebacker and Ohio State standout, Head Coach Larry Grant. The football team has been working hard this off-season, and are preparing to make a run at the league title. On Friday, Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m., the Bearcats will charge out onto the new turf at War Memorial Stadium as they welcome in Lemoore High School. The Paso Robles Press was able to speak with Coach Grant about the upcoming season and what he brings to Paso Robles:
PRP: What was it about Paso Robles that made you want to come here?
LG: You know I had no idea of it until last year, I didn’t even know the city existed actually. But we came here last year while I was at Clovis North and the atmosphere and the community, it just amazed me on how they came out and shut the city down for the football game. It was loud, and that's what I like and that's what I know from being at a few of the different places that I have been. But the love the community had for the game, and how hard the players worked, and how hard they played, that is what interested me most about this program.
PRP: So how has your first offseason as head coach gone so far?
LG: The offseason has been great. You know we're going through some bumps and some bruises right now, but other than that our offseason has been great, training camp has been going ok. We have a lot of work to do as a team and a lot of growing to do, but the progress that these kids have made since day one of me being here is black and white.
PRP: I know it's hard to evaluate at this point, but what do you think is one of the team's strengths going into this season?
LG: Well, our special teams is playing very very well right now. The good thing about us is that we focus on all three phases of the game and we’ve done it all throughout the offseason and i'm just surprised by how well they have developed since the first day of our OTA’s till now. The kids work their butt off and you can see as were going through all of these kickoffs and special teams drills every single day.
PRP: Reaching the pinnacle of the sport like you’ve done, how does that trickle down? Can you bring anything from maybe the NFL or Ohio State down to these smaller levels and teach the kids something special?
LG: I believe I can bring a lot to the game, and a lot of knowledge to these kids that they haven't really seen as part of a football program. It’s been a great football program here for a long time, from what I’ve heard, but me, with the knowledge that I have, that I have gained from so many different great coaches at every level of the game, that I think I bring a completely different type of knowledge to the game. For one, my intensity is unknown, it’s a little wild, at times it’s a little too much but the kids love it, they appreciate it, the coaches laugh about it and it makes the game a lot more fun than what it is.
Senior Fred Thompkins is a new Bearcat that is looking to make a big impact on the field this year. Last season, according to Maxpreps, Thompkins finished the season with four receptions for 29 yards for the (1-9) Kimball Jaguars. He is projected to play significant time on both the offense and defense this season, and we were able to talk to him about how he liking Paso, and what excites him about this season:
PRP: Hey Fred, so this is your first year in Paso?
PRP: Where did you move here or transfer from?
FT: Kimball High School, in Tracy
Connor: Right on, how are you liking it out here?
FT: Oh it’s really nice, a lot of great people. A lof of the people are more involved with the program and all the stuff. I feel like it’s more of family here in Paso, and in Tracy there wasn't really anything.
PRP: So it looks like you will be playing in the slot on offense and strong safety on defense, which side of the ball do you look forward to most?
PRP: And why is that?
FT: Because I like to hit.
PRP:So is there anything in particular that you like about playing strong safety?
FT: Well, I get to sometimes play in the box and I also get to play deep too.
PRP: Is there anything different that coach Grant does that other coaches you have have had in the past didn't do?
FT: Yea I think he treats it more like a college program and we are more into it than other programs, I believe. He is really pushing us to be great and I really think we can do great things.
PRP:What is the best part of having a former NFL player as a coach?
FT: Oh yea, experience, a lot of experience. Like he will know things that will work, he knows how to read things better. In our check Z, he taught me to just feel the defense and feel the flow of the offense and then you will know, and I never thought about it that way so that was cool.
Julian Madrigal is a senior for the Bearcats and will be the feature tailback to start the season. Last season, Madrigal started at corner for the Bearcats as Christian Erikson ran for nearly 1000 yards. With Erikson preparing for his freshman season at Sacramento State, its Madrigal’s turn to serve as the bell cow for Paso this season. We at the Paso Press had the opportunity speak with Madrigal about the upcoming season and ask him what he is most excited about.
PP: So tell me a little bit about yourself, Julian. You are going to be a senior this year?
JM: Yes I am
PP: What are you going to be playing?
JM: Ill be playing running back.
PP: Running back, nice! So have you been playing running back all three years?
JM: Well last year we had Christian Erikson, he was the big senior running back last year, so I had to wait behind him. So I played all defense last year and started at corner.
PP: Awesome, so how has the offseason gone for you this year?
JM: Uh, it’s been good. I have been working out really hard. A lot of the guys have been working out during the offseason, by ourselves too.
PP: OK great, do you see any differences in the team this year compared to last year?
JM: Yea, I think this year we have been working out a lot harder, just like a lot more stuff. We have run, and we really didn't run all that much last year.
PP: This is your first year with coach Grant, right?
PP: Have you noticed anything different about him or maybe something that he does differently than other coaches you have had in your life?
JM: He is a little more chill, more laid back. We have a lot more fun but he is still serious when we need to be.
PP: I know I saw coach talking to you a couple times at practice, does he ever give you any kind of special insight from all the experience that he has with the game?
JM: Yea he has a lot of insight. He is the most professional person we have ever had at the school so it's really good to be having that.
PP: Ok, so what school(s) are you most looking forward to this season?
JM: All of them
PP: Alright man, last question. What kind of running back are you? Do you prefer running outside or between the tackles?
JM: I like the inside runs.