High School football is returning to its traditional place as a fall sport, after being transplanted to the spring last season due to COVID, and that suits the La Cañada Spartans just fine.
“Anything that is close to normal — it’s not really normal yet, but anything that is close to normal is awesome,” said LCHS first-year head coach Dave Avramovich.
It will be a new era on the gridiron for La Cañada as Avramovich moves up to take over the head coaching duties after serving as the defensive coordinator last season as part of his second coaching stint at the school. He replaced former head coach Jason Sarceda.
“I’m honored to be a part of the program. I coached here a long time ago, from ’04-06,” Avramovich said. “The first high school coaching job I had was here.”
It will be the first head coaching job for Avramovich, but he is no stranger to the sidelines, having coached football in some capacity for two decades.
“I’ve been involved in team football for 25 years and I love it,” he said. “I’ve loved it a long time. I really love kids more than I love football, but I think football is a great tool to educate, work with kids and watch them develop as people.”
La Cañada has been practicing since Aug. 2 with a week of conditioning. As the season opener approaches, the program’s numbers have been trending up.
“We had about 40 guys when we started and now we are up to 61. It’s been a slow trickle of kids coming into awareness that we started,” Avramovich said earlier this week while preparing for tonight’s season opener against visiting Glendale. “It’s been good. We keep adding kids.”
This season, under Avramovich, success for La Cañada will be measured by improvements in play, attitude and effort as much as wins and loses.
“The buzzword around the program is ‘reaching your full potential,” Avramovich said. “It is really about getting better every day and trying to be the best person, football player, student you can be.”
The Spartans will have a new starting quarterback in Macky Plocher. He is one of just two sophomores starting for LCHS, but he did see some varsity action last season.
“He’s never reckless, but always trying to win. I love the way he approaches it,” Avramovich said of his new signal caller.
The Spartans will be leaning heavily on upperclassmen as a foundation for success, including seniors Caleb Carruthers, Max Mora, Diego Reyes, Brandon Shepherd, Cole Stratton and Jack Stroben. Key juniors will be Corey Cheung and Anthony Venneri, who will start at running back/linebacker and wide receiver/safety, respectively.
The La Cañada slate of games will be split evenly at five apiece between nonleague and Rio Hondo League action.
The following Thursday, the Spartans are on the road at Franklin High in Los Angeles. The rest of the nonleague games include Friday night matchups when the Spartans host Santa Paula and North Hollywood Campbell Hall before a rare Saturday daytime contest at Gladstone High of Covina.
All five of La Cañada’s Rio Hondo games will be on Fridays, beginning on Oct. 1 when it hosts Monrovia. The next week, the Spartans go on the road to match up with South Pasadena.
“South Pas has been the nemesis of La Cañada. It’s a great rivalry for us,” Avramovich said.
The following week, the Spartans play their final home game with an Oct. 15 contest against Temple City. The final two games of the regular season are on the road against Pasadena Poly, which will be playing its first games as a member of the Rio Hondo League, and a finale on the road against San Marino, where Avramovich coached in some capacity for 11 years.
LCHS posted a 3-1 overall record in last school year’s pandemic-shortened season, which was played in March and April. There were no CIF playoffs held, and the Spartans are hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since 2017. They will also be looking for their first playoff win since 2004, which was a 25-7 CIF first-round victory over Cabrillo High of Lompoc.
“I’m just trying to raise the bar, because I think our kids want to be great,” Avramovich said.