I always wondered what Bill Belichick felt like each week during the 2007 NFL season, that when the lights went off and a switch was flipped and his team’s next opponent appeared on film, if the New England head coach took copious notes or played solitaire.
That when you have such a dominant side as the Patriots that year, how difficult it can be discovering a matchup you can’t win.
I would think Belichick took his film study seriously, always concerned there was an upset-capable team lurking within that dark room.
He eventually found one in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
Tony Sanchez knows the feeling. He will always have Foothill High.
“It was my second year coaching (California High) in the Bay Area and we easily handled Foothill in the regular season,” Sanchez said. “Then, we play them in the first round of playoffs and lose. They just shocked us. I will never forget that as long as I live. Anything can happen.
“I am completely serious when I tell you we handle each week and prepare for each opponent the exact same way. If not, you lose who you are and your professionalism. We break down every formation, every matchup, every personnel grouping, every wrinkle we think we can attack. We treat everyone the same. If not, you lose your edge as coaches and as a program.”
Which is probably bad news for Centennial.
Sanchez and his Bishop Gorman machine host the Bulldogs in a Sunset Region title game Friday night, when the team that gave the Gaels their most competitive 48 minutes from any local side this season hopes to pull what would be considered a Foothill-type upset … times a thousand.
The teams met Oct. 19.
Gorman 49, Centennial 20.
It’s different for Sanchez than other coaches when thinking of ways to motivate his team, to convince teenagers whose program has won three consecutive state titles and has outscored seven local opponents this season by an average of 64-12 that there exists someone in Las Vegas who could shock the prep world, or at least a world stretching from the state line at Arizona to the one entering California.
He does things such as last week, before Bishop Gorman met Palo Verde in a Sunset semifinal, digging through old game film and showing the Gaels a certain game from the 2008 season.
Sanchez wasn’t even here yet, but knew of the outcome.
“Gorman had 26 kids on their team that season that went on to play Division I football,” he said. “And Palo Verde won 50-14. I wanted to show our team that at the end of the day, having the most talent doesn’t mean you’re always going to win if you are not prepared and committed and work as hard as ever.”
Last week’s final: Bishop Gorman 71, Palo Verde 28.
Still, he reminds the Gaels of all the ways an upset can happen, of playoff games where Palo Verde had leads of 21-14 and 3-0, of the time Liberty scored first, of a Centennial side that just last month became the first local regular-season opponent to score more than a touchdown against Bishop Gorman during Sanchez’s tenure.
He and his assistant coaches monitor how much film the players watch at school and at home, yet another example of the technological advancements young athletes now own.
First comes math and science.
Next comes how best to attack Centennial’s defense.
“We don’t want them spending a ton of time watching it because they have so much going on in their lives with school and homework,” Sanchez said. “But we can log on and make sure they have done 20-30 or so minutes of film study when they are away from us.
“I think we are at the point where we have proven to be a pretty good football team and we don’t have to feel a pressure of proving anything to anyone each week. I think we have done a good job pulling (starters) after halftime. But there is always the fear of, if you find yourself in a tight game come the fourth quarter, how will they react?
“That’s why we never change what we do in terms of preparation. If you don’t feel a need to sharpen your sword each and every week, someone is going to step up and get you.”
Translation: There is always a New York Giants or Foothill High lurking within that dark room.
There is also the reality of seven wins by an average score of 64-12.