Bulldogs Coach Jason Thornburg is pushing his team to improve their game
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
With San Jacinto ringing the victory bell for the last three years, can Hemet High regain their winning ways in 2017? Coach Jason Thornburg answers with a resounding “Yes!”
Last year, Hemet High was a bit low on senior players. That, combined with a decidedly lacking effort on the field, resulted in the Bulldogs only winning three of 10 games in 2016, despite a strong beginning to the season. This year, Hemet has more seniors and is determined to put forth more effort.
“We’ve got a lot of returning starters, about 16 of them,” said Thornburg. “I think that’s a big bonus, because we’ve got a lot of kids who have some experience. But we’ve got to be a lot better than we were last year.”
The team breakdown this year is 22 seniors, 26 juniors and a handful of sophomores and freshmen as well. But as a Southern Utah University alumnus, Thornburg knows that age doesn’t matter on the field.
“I don’t believe in ‘rebuild,’ I just think it’s time for kids to step up when it’s their time,” said Thornburg. “We don’t worry about San Jacinto, West Valley – we want to take care of what we can control at Hemet.”
Among this year’s championship hopefuls are these three, who Thornburg characterizes as “prime potential:”
Wyatt Salinas, an outside linebacker in grade 12, says teamwork is on his mind: “I’m looking forward to see how we come together as a team, and how much we’ve progressed since last year. ‘Cause I really think that there’s really gonna be a big change between this year and last year.”
Solomon Cochran, a corner in grade 12, is looking to be light on his feet: “Speed is a big one, ‘cause I’ve been the fastest kid at Hemet High since sophomore year. And I’m only getting faster…”
Maxwell Hinchliff, an offensive d-line in grade 12, hopes to be relentless against the competition: “I like to think that I bring intensity and, I guess, encouragement to other people on the team. If anyone has any questions… I can help them out with their technique. And just, determination.”
Besides practicing their A-game on the field, the Bulldogs also practice being humble.
“We have great kids of character, and we talk about that every week,” said Thornburg. “And that’s always what we’ll always preach here… We have a ‘word of the week’, and no matter what other schools do that’s our main goal is we’re going to teach young men of character. We want to win every game, but at the same time we want to win in the game of life.”
One thing this year’s Bulldogs can expect is tons of fans at every game.
“It’s not just one game, it’s every game that the student body shows up and supports us,” said Thornburg. “Win or lose, they’re always positive on campus when things are going bad and that’s a sign of a true community – when things are going bad, that they still stick together.”
Nonetheless, these Bulldogs better take advantage of scrimmage against Palm Desert on Aug. 18 and learn new tricks quickly, as they face the Broncos from Banning High School at home 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 25. Will they ride the Broncos into the sunset? Be there to find out! And maybe Dr. Shaw will work the grill again this season – you never know!