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Marin County Pride ready for the football season to kick off

Safety, James Powell, (L) and Cornerback Joe Felder (R) reach for a football during practice for the Marin County Pride minor league football team.
Safety, James Powell, (L) and Cornerback Joe Felder (R) reach for a football during practice for the Marin County Pride minor league football team.
- By Rem O'Donnelley

Four months ago the Marin County Pride football team held their first tryouts.
Since then their number of players grew and practices were held weekly. On Saturday the minor league football team will play their first game.

The team will take on the California Scorpions from Sacramento in their first of 11 games this season. After months of practice, team members are eager for the football games to begin.

On the last practice before their game next weekend, players were in good spirits and were working on their skills. Teammates were joking with one another and some had nicknames. Two players have been nicknamed the “Twin Towers” for their towering stature. Defensive tackle Kenneth Hightower stands at 6' 9” and weighs 350 pounds. Also playing defensive tackle is Charles Griffin who is 6' 7” and 355 pounds.

Griffin was all smiles and looking forward to the Pride's first game. “I can not wait, a week is too long, I'm not going to be able to sleep all week, at all. At work it's going to be the longest week ever. Everything is going to come to a crawl this week. When we get out there it's going to be something else, it's going to be something to see, definitely,” he said.

Teammate Hightower can't wait either. “Man I'm excited, I don't think I will be able to sleep,”

Over the practice season the team had a series of scrimmages with three teams. The “Twin Towers” proved a challenge for the other teams. Steve Burdo is the offensive skills coordinator and mentioned Griffin and Hightower are going to be formidable opponents for the other teams. “They're going to cause problems for some teams.“

“The (Pride's) defense showed up really well, nobody really got anything off of them, very few conversions from the other team's offenses. Out of the three teams and 20 to 40 snaps each, one team got in the end zone once,” Burdo said.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are some smaller players. Safety, AJ Yarce
had praise for the entire teams. “All of these guys are on a tremendous level, great athletes,” he said.

He has found some challenges over the last few months. “For me it's been to handle the velocity, the speed and the weight because I'm kind of a light guy and it's an issue when you don't have a lot of weight,” he laughed.

Another safety is James Powell. He has found several challenges that have been rewarding. “I've learned a lot out here from all of these guys, I haven't been out here for two years. It was good, I had to adapt real quick. My teammates helped me really good,” he said.

Powell was excited and says he feels up to speed and that everyone is ready. “Everyone is going full throttle right now. We're ready for anyone up against us.”

There have been highlights for players and Griffin put it down to the positive environment in the team. “A new atmosphere is what the highlight is. It's a whole new, different feeling when I'm playing football. I'm actually happy to be out here. I don't feel like I'm at work, I didn't feel like it was hard to roll out of bed this morning. I was looking forward to it last night. That's what's great about it this season. I'm looking forward to playing football this year, that's the big difference,” Griffin said.

Finally Coach Clay Jackson had praise for his players and the hard practice they've put in since November. “The players have developed way beyond my expectations. Our defense has been solid since day one. We made a few tweaks to our offense about half way through camp and the players have really responded to it. We have a lot of talent on this team.”

Like some players he has also had some challenges. “Our biggest challenge has actually nothing to do with on the field stuff. It's all the behind the scenes work it takes to pull something like this off. Just letting the community know we even exist. But word is starting to spread and we expect a good crowd for the season opener,” Jackson said.

Look for the Marin County Pride at their first game at San Rafael High School's football stadium at 7 p.m. this Saturday.

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