We're more than seven months away from the high school football season starting. Most football fields may be all set for soccer, the trees may be without their leaves, but in the town of Shafter it's football on everyone's mind.
A program steeped in history but is perhaps best known for its rivalry with Wasco, a series the Generals have lost each year for the last decade. This December head coach Ricky Ishida left the school after five seasons at the helm.
"We flew the position and got it out there on the street and entertained quite a few applicants and a lot of interest," said Shafter principal Russell Shipley.
Shafter settled on Jerald Pierucci, a familiar face to high school football who was last seen at Bakersfield Christian where he won a valley title and led the Eagles to a state championship game. He parted ways with the school in 2015 but his 29-11 record coaching at BCHS made it an easy football decision for Shafter. One look through the halls of the school where pictures of each graduating class hang and you see it was also a simple decision for the coach.
"To have that opportunity to come back here. It's a big deal," said Jerald Pierucci who graduated from the school in 1994. While the season is still months away, preparation has already started. His off season program in the weight room of course makes players stronger but also holding them accountable.
From time to time he drops in on the school's strong body class that starts before 7:00 A.M. While it's mostly just to check-in, he also offers tips.
And that extends to his coaches. Inside the garage of his southwest Bakersfield home he holds his first coaches meeting. It's the first time his staff breaks down plays and watches film. It's a time to *coach his coaches* on his system but it's also the first time he meets his Shafter coaches.
But the study of film continues inside his classroom at Shafter. While he waits for his business class to come in he spends time writing notes over film that his players can study on Hudl. "It really is the way coaches have to do it now," he said.
The app gives players the ability to study on their own time and it gives coach more time to spend with his family. But while he's away the drawings of his two daughters remind him of home. "My youngest gives them away-my daughter puts them up for sale."
Star Wars memorabilia, including a Luke Skywaker's light saber from The Empire Strikes Back, litters his classroom. While he has plenty of gear from a galaxy far far away what he's lacking might surprise you.
"(holds up football) This is the last one we have in the program right now."
From footballs to stand up blocking dummies, sideline iPads to coaching headsets, he's made a complete list of program needs. "Just that stuff to facilitate what i consider to win games-it's almost $40,000," he said.
While the bottom line is huge a lot of those costs can be found at any first year program. And while in the short term it will show kids that he's running a first class team, he thinks it will have long term impacts on the community.
"Now you start maybe getting some of those kids that have traditionally gone to Wasco, I want them to come to us."
He thinks he can get all of it before the season starts. But to get it he has to cold call possible donors.
So while we're still weeks away from the pageantry of high school football, don't tell that to coach Pierucci
who's still hard at work on the new season.
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