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story.lead_photo.caption FileThe California Pintos football team looks to improve from last season. The Pintos ended with a 1-9 record, their lone win coming in a homecoming thriller against the Versailles Tigers that ended 33-30 in favor of the Pintos.

The California Pintos football team is looking to take the next step this season after finishing last season with a record of 1-9.

Head coach Derek Scroggins, who is in his second year as the coach for the team, said he has seen the Pintos already starting to take that next step.

“I think we have seen a lot of that, that next step over the last nine months,” Scroggins said. “They have been dedicated to the weight room, and they have been working hard. We had an awesome summer that wrapped up (last week) where the kids were showing up on a daily basis and putting in good work and making themselves bigger, stronger, faster and quicker.”

This year, the team has seen an increase in the competition for starting spots, Scroggins said.

“We were not real senior-heavy last year, and we return a lot of guys that had stepped up. Some of the younger guys (are) pushing some of the returning guys for playing time and there are a lot of kids that are impressive so far,” Scroggins said.

With the air of competition created at practice, Scroggins said there are two solid groups of players fighting for varsity time.

“I think that is going to push us to get even better,” Scroggins said.

The team has been working on every aspect of the game mentally and physically over the summer, Scroggins said.

His players have been working on being able to run plays, finding themselves in the right spots and taking the correct angles.

“From a summer perspective, we had a really great summer. Like I said before, the kids have been showing up ready to work,” Scroggins said.

When it comes to offense, Scroggins said that taking care of the little things is going to be a big key for the Pintos.

“Ball security, taking proper steps, remembering our plays and finishing,” Scroggins said. “We had a scrimmage on Monday night this past week and our varsity group definitely looked pretty solid. They were hitting the right holes and they were using the proper techniques. They were being explosive, and they were finishing.”

Scroggins said that ideally, the offense will use a solid mix of passing and running plays, but that can change due to what is working for the team and what their opponent’s defense is giving them from game to game.

“I feel that we have gotten significantly better on both sides of the offense with the passing game and the running game,” Scroggins said. “So I feel that we got the kids in the right positions where I feel that we should be able to do both.”

With players coming back in key positions for the offense, Scroggins said there are multiple players who can have big years for California. He specifically pointed to returning quarterback Calen Kruger and running back Tagen Higgins as a pair he thinks should have a good year.

“The offensive line has looked very impressive,” Scroggins added. “They are doing a great job of opening holes and finishing blocks and blocking to the whistle and (playing) low and aggressive.”

On defense, Scroggins said the Pintos are looking to be fast and aggressive. He said the team has improved its tackling significantly to accomplish this.

“I look for the defense to continue to do well for us,” Scroggins said.

Scroggins said the defense has players returning in the linebacker and defensive line positions that can help the team. He said his leaders on this side of the ball will be middle linebackers Garrett Burger and Bryant Davis, but he expects many players to contribute.

“…We’ve got a great defensive line coming back, some great outside linebackers to go with those inside guys,” Scroggins said. “Our defensive backs are real strong and it should be a lot of fun for whoever ends up being able to start for us for week one. Whoever wins those spots is going to be battle tested and we are going to be ready to go.”

The team is looking good in all positions — Scroggins said he feels like the Pintos find themselves in a strong position as the season approaches.

“Really, I don’t feel like we have any glaring weaknesses,” Scroggins said. ”I feel like we definitely (have) two solid groups of starters and back ups across the board in each position. That is what led us to having good competition in the play for spots.”

A goal for the Pintos is to come closer together as a team and to improve week by week, Scroggins said.

“Just trying to maximize our potential,” Scroggins said. “Like I said before, this summer we have been doing everything we are supposed to in the weight room and through camps and mini-camps. The kids have been aggressive and we (have) a lot of excitement. The kids are hungry to play some games, and we are looking forward to the fall.”

California Pintos football schedule:

Aug. 21 - 7 p.m., Jamboree at California

Aug. 28 - 7 p.m., at Clinton

Sept. 4 - 7 p.m., at Fulton

Sept. 11 - 7 p.m., vs. Blair Oaks

Sept. 18 - 7 p.m., vs. School of the Osage

Sept. 25 - 7 p.m., at Boonville

Oct. 2 - 7 p.m., at Versailles

Oct. 9 - 7 p.m., vs. Eldon

Oct. 16 - 7 p.m., at Hallsville

Oct. 26 - 7 p.m., at Southern Boone

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