PEN Comeback Getting Closer
• The Peninsula High football program has battled back to be a contender in the Bay League.
Peninsula High’s varsity football team made history this season by not only beating Redondo Union High for the first time since 2008, but also advancing to the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
It has been nearly a decade since a Peninsula football team has made it to CIF, and it was not an easy feat.
“We practiced hard for hours every day to come together and work towards a goal. We all wanted it very badly, not just for ourselves, but for each other,” said wide receiver Justin Kim. “We sacrificed a lot and pushed through all sorts of obstacles to put us in the position we are in today.”
The 44-player team has come a long way from 2016, when the program was shut down due to numerous injuries attributed to the sport. Under the direction of head coach David Young and many assistant coaches, the team slowly came back, and all the players’ hard work has paid off.
Young has been the head coach for three years, and this year also marks his 20th year of coaching high school football.
“I enjoy game-day the most because it is a chance to display our efforts and showcase what we have been working on during the week and throughout the year,” Young said.
“Football is unique in the sense that you only get one game a week, and that means there are no second chances until the next Friday. It is absolute joy to see my players compete. Win or lose, football teaches life lessons everyday,” Young said.
Captain and quarterback Ethan Gretzinger has been playing football since first grade, and he plans on playing on a Division I team after his high school career. He attributes the teams successes this year to being resilient and facing challenges without hesitation.
“[As one of the captains], my job is to instill confidence in the team that any given Friday, Peninsula has a chance to win and that I always have their backs,” Gretzinger said.
“My favorite part about playing is the brotherhood I have made with the guys on my team. I transferred last year and I have felt like I have known them forever. Also, scoring and seeing The Zoo go crazy is an incredible feeling.”
Gretzinger also works with captains Ethan Han, Zachary Denney and Jason Augello. Han, who plays running back and safety, has been involved with football since the age of eight, and he also plans on playing at the collegiate level.
“As a captain,” Han said, “Some of my main responsibilities are lifting the team’s spirit up when they are down and helping with anything I can to make sure the team stays on task.”
“It is hard to choose a favorite part about playing football, but one of them is the friendships I have created with my teammates,” Han said. “Most of these kids on the team end up being my closest friends. I have known most of the new seniors before they played, but after they joined we all became a lot closer,” Han said.
The team is able to cultivate so many deep friendships with each other because of the sheer amount of time spent practicing.
On a normal day, the team starts right after 5th period by lifting weights for an hour before going to either the pit or the main field to practice until around 6:30.
Each position has a coach specializing in that area. They run drills for those players who are in that position. Not only does the team strengthen their physical fitness, but they also refine their abilities through film.
By watching plays from their own games, as well as games from the rival teams, the players are able to see and learn from their mistakes. They can also gauge how to approach the other team when the time comes.
“I believe that this was the year [we made it to playoffs] because we have had the most time with our new coaches,” Han said. “Unlike the past two years, we had an extra year with our new coaches, which helped a lot. We also got a few seniors to come out and try playing and they ended up being a tremendous factor in winning games and making the year more fun.”
There are many new seniors who have just joined football team. Young believes that one thing that has really helped the success is the addition of some first year players from basketball, volleyball, baseball and lacrosse. While most of them do not have a background in football, these athletes have been significant contributors all year and have shown their skills on the field.
“We have worked hard since I joined in May until now,” wide receiver John Skoblar said. “I have never been a part of such a dedicated team with a great common goal in mind.”
The team will continue to work hard to go further in the playoffs and to become even closer.
“The moment we step onto that field on a Friday after spending days, weeks and months working together, I get this victorious feeling after beating the team we spent that entire week focusing on,” Kim said.
“My favorite part about playing is also the moments and memories we shared throughout this journey, which has made this one of my favorite and best teams to play on in high school yet.”