Tyrone Armstrong doesn’t shy away from wearing a thick, green sweater and knee-high socks in 95 degree weather.
It’s his standard attire during all Rancho High football practices.
“I don’t have any kids saying, ‘Coach, it’s hot out here,’ ” he said Thursday after the first day of noncontact practice. “They look and see me in the sweatshirt and their point is moot.”
Armstrong, entering his second year as the Rams’ coach, believes it’s this type of culture change that will help his players turn the page on what has been hell on earth on the field at Rancho.
Opponents have outscored the Rams 1,004-82 in the past two seasons and have become accustomed to asserting their will on both sides of the ball, prompting the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association in June to approve the school’s request to become independent.
This drastically changed the Rams’ schedule, as seven of their nine games this season will be against Division I-A opponents. Rancho played in the Northeast League last fall, alongside Canyon Springs, Green Valley, Las Vegas, Silverado and Valley. The average margin of defeat against those schools was 62.8 points.
Rancho last won on Oct. 14, 2011, a 37-27 victory over Desert Pines, and is riding a 20-game losing streak. Just one current player, lineman Kwansi Cooper, was a part of the team’s last win.
“All the losses really built up after my freshman year,” Cooper said. “It hurt a lot. A win this year is going to feel wonderful. We’re all going to feel good about it and be hyped after that first win.”
Fellow lineman Jakob Mitchell agreed and said he believes the team is ready to win because of the significant strides it recently has made.
“We were just kind of lackadaisical my first three years,” he said. “We were really just, ‘Let’s go to practice; do this; get it over with.’ But this year, we’re objective. We get it done. We’re on point. It’s kind of like a new beginning. The season’s going to be great if everybody keeps their head in and stays objective. My outlook is really positive compared to the other years.”
Armstrong said his players are gaining knowledge of the game and have been improving steadily in the weight room and on the practice field since January.
He realizes it’s still a work in progress but is excited for the new season.
“We want to get that first win,” Armstrong said. “When Clark had that (losing) streak (a few years ago), there were teams dreading being that first team to lose to them. I don’t worry about what it’s going to feel like for me. I think it’s what it will feel like to those guys. I want them to have a good feeling. When they have that good feeling, it’ll carry over to the school.
“These kids really come out here and work hard. They deserve all the support from the community and the school. We don’t profess to be the Palo Verdes or the Bishop Gormans, and we know that they’re in a special class. But we look forward to building this program and letting these kids be successful.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at email@example.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.