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JEFF GRITCHEN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Los Alamitos first-year coach Ray Fenton instructs Mike Magana during Monday's opening practice.

Fenton brings high energy to Los Alamitos

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

LOS ALAMITOS – During the conditioning drills at the end of Los Alamitos’ first day of football practice Monday, through all the chaos of sprints, bear crawls and pushups, one of the participants clearly stood out: Coach Ray Fenton.

The 53-year-old went through the 20 minutes of drills with the players.

As Los Alamitos’ new coach, Fenton is following in the footsteps of Orange County’s winningest coach, John Barnes, but at practice Monday he chose to follow the Griffins linemen through the four stations that had many players doubled over gasping for breath or worse.

It was Fenton’s way of teaching the players to “embrace the suck,” a saying he repeats often to the players. As he put it, he wants the Griffins to embrace the feeling of sucking air back into their lungs after a workout and, in a broader sense, to embrace of challenge of getting better.

“I can say it all I want, but if I’m not there sucking air then it means nothing,” Fenton said. “With my hands on my knees, looking like I am going to puke, they know it sucks for me too.”

Los Alamitos senior Drew Platt, a second-team all-league tight end and linebacker last season, said Fenton set a good example for the players.

“It’s good to see that he has a lot of energy,” Platt said. “He is out here, he is 50-something years old, why can’t I (do what he’s doing)?”

Monday was a day when many other Orange County teams also began their fall camps. By the end of this week, nearly all of the county teams will be back on the field, getting ready for their season openers at the end of August of early September.

For Fenton, whose team opens the season against Long Beach Poly on Aug. 26, the challenge these next few weeks will be in trying to forge a new identity for the program while building on success it had during Barnes’s 37-year run as coach.

“They’ve had such incredible success here over the years under Coach Barnes,” Fenton said. “You don’t ever really replace a guy with that legacy. We are stepping in and respecting what they’ve done here, but also attacking the future.”

Fenton visited two college programs – Oregon and Utah – during the offseason looking for ways to give his team an edge.

“The game is constantly changing, so we stay up on it,” Fenton said. “If I’m the same guy I was yesterday I didn’t do a good job.”

Fenton was the coach at Fountain Valley the past three years. During that time, the Barons went 2-1, against Los Alamitos in league games, giving him a level of credibility with his new players.

“They have some faith that we know what we are talking about,” Fenton said. “They don’t have all the answers and they want to get better.”

Senior Joey Noble, a first-team all-league defensive lineman in 2015, said the players took notice of Fenton’s energy when he was hired in January.

“He just came in as a vocal guy and as a hard-working coach,” Noble said. “There is a much higher tempo and intensity.”

Fenton is one of three new coaches in the Sunset League, joined by Brett Brown at Huntington Beach and Jimmy Nolan, who replaced Fenton at Fountain Valley.


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