BVarsity

Wednesday, Aug 27 2014 11:28 PM

HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Highland

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    Michael Gutiierrez, Highland High football coach, appears on BVarsity Network's Super Show.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Aggressive running and tackling are evident during a recent practice at Highland High.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Highland High linemen work on technique during an afternoon practice.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Highland High linebackers go through some drills in preparation for their season.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Eric Saavedra Highland High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Breaker Brannan Highland High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Chance Cooper Highland High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Michael Sanchez Highland High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Highland High School football coach Michael Gutierrez.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

Michael Gutierrez has had a busy seven months.

Gutierrez, 28, landed his first varsity head coaching job in February when he was hired to take over a Highland program that hasn't had a winning season since going 6-5 in 2008.

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KEY PLAYERS

Breaker Brannan

QB-linebacker, senior

Highland is going to a spread offense this season, and Brannan will be the key to how successfully the offense will operate. "He's done a great job with decision-making. He knows what everyone has to do," coach Michael Gutierrez said.

n Eric Saavedra, linebacker, senior: Saavedra is an all-league defensive end last season who has moved to inside linebacker. He has improved his speed after losing weight and working with a speed coach in the offseason.

n Chance Cooper, WR/LB, junior: The son of assistant coach Joe Cooper is likely the team's top receiver and also a hard-hitting linebacker.

WATCH THEM LIVE

Oct. 3: Independence at Highland

SOUTHEAST YOSEMITE LEAGUE * DIVISION III * 2013 RECORD: 2-8, MISSED PLAYOFFS

KEYS TO THE SEASON

n The test in Arvin: The Scots have spent countless hours implementing their new-look offense and defense, but the real test of how well the players have picked things up will come in Friday's season-opener at Arvin. "That's the real test to see where everyone's at, to see if they're where we think they'll be and see who's maybe a step behind," Gutierrez said.

n Seeking a winning attitude: Highland went 2-8 last season, and with a 6-6 season in 2011 the exception, the Scots have been under .500 four of the past five years. In fact, Highland has had just one winning season (2008) this century..

n Camps lends a hand: Gutierrez credits West High coach Mark Camps with providing tips about the 4-2-5 defense the Scots are unveiling this season. "We've been learning more and more, going to clinics," Gutierrez said. "Mark Camps runs a similar system, and we've been talking the last 2-3 years."

SEASONSCHEDULE

Aug. 29: at Arvin

Sept. 5: Taft

Sept. 12: at Golden Valley

Sept. 19: at East

Sept. 26: at Chavez

Oct. 3: Independence

Oct. 10: BYE

Oct. 17: South*

Oct. 24: at Mira Monte*

Oct. 31: North*

Nov. 7: at Foothill*

* -- SEYL game

"Within days I was up there almost every day," said Gutierrez, who finished out the school year as a teacher at Foothill before joining Highland's staff this school year.

"(It gave) me a lot of time to get to know the players even before spring ball."

Gutierrez was the JV head coach at Foothill last season and was the varsity offensive coordinator at Mira Monte before that.

"We are familiar with our opponents. That's the advantage of doing JVs," Gutierrez said. "I've seen the juniors coming up and I watched the varsity games, so I'm familiar with them."

The challenge for Highland's players is the new offensive and defensive sets they're learning.

Gutierrez, who will call the offensive plays, has installed a spread zone-read offense that requires the quarterback to make pre-snap reads. Highland was a wing-T team last season.

"We've come a long way," senior quarterback Breaker Brannan said. "Getting used to the new plays has been difficult, but everybody has been settling in and getting the hang of it."

Gutierrez promises the Scots will pass much more frequently this year.

"It's exciting," said Chance Cooper, a junior wide receiver and outside linebacker. "I like it. We're passing a lot, and we're going to come out hitting on defense."

There's also a big change defensively, with the 3-4 used last year switching to a 4-2-5, Gutierrez said.

"We have a lot of 'tweeners, guys who are in the mix at strong safety but too small to play (linebacker)," Gutierrez said. "This allows us to put more pressure on people."

Thus far, seniors Dracy Wiley and David Garcia have looked good at running back, Gutierrez said. Michael Sanchez is another starting candidate there after playing wideout last season.

Adam Terrazas, an outside linebacker last season, is at safety and running back.

The top defender returning is Eric Saavedra, a senior who was an all-Southeast Yosemite League defensive end and has moved to inside linebacker.

Gutierrez said he plans a lot of rotation among his offensive and defensive linemen.

"That'll help them stay fresh," he said. "We're pretty young with our offensive line with a few seniors sprinkled in."

A winning season is the immediate goal.

"From past years, we haven't done very well with our record," Brannan said. "We're just going to go out to prove we're a team to be reckoned with, get some wins and show we're a good team."

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