Dennis Moreno knows the expectations are high.
The new Hillsboro High football coach was in the weight room, making improvements earlier this week when a reporter called, wanting his insight on his new job.
“The main thing at this point is just getting organized, meeting the players, getting your feet on the ground,’’ said Moreno.
The coach arrived in Burro-land last month after serving as defensive coordinator for nine seasons under coach Richard Campbell at Hunters Lane.
“I know expectations are high here,’’ Moreno said, noting the Burros 4A state championship won in December, along with a truck load of region championships. “But we’re looking forward to a good start.’’
He said at least two coaches would remain holdovers from Scott Blade’s staff, following Blade’s successful three-year 37-5 tenure — Kevin Komisar as offensive coordinator and former Burro ‘Mr. Football’ winner Alvin Fite, who will work with Komisar on offense.
Moreno, 44, said that he was bringing over his old assistant, Matt Clay, from Hunters Lane. Clay will again serve as defensive coordinator, along with Moreno himself.
“We’re in the process of hiring three more coaches,’’ Moreno said. “We should have that completed by early summer with the approval of our principal Rod Manuel. All three are outstanding coaches.’’
Moreno said spring practice, which wound up last week, went well.
“We had the same problems with the weather and the mud that everyone else had but got a lot done,’’ he said. “We had to practice indoors a couple of times. On one day, it was one of the most physical practices I’ve ever witnessed — even though it was indoors. Guys were really getting after it, trying to make an impression and competing for positions.
“Our spring game was very good. We tried to break down the teams as evenly as we could. Both teams scored two touchdowns and both made one two-point extra and missed one. We thought one team had won 14-12, but when we went back and looked at the film, we saw a receiver had his foot in bounds on the two points, so it was a tie.’’
Moreno knows this year will be a challenge, not only due to the high expectations but because Hillsboro is in the new region, 5A, which means a tough new region schedule. The Burros will be facing teams like Ravenwood, Gallatin, Siegel, Centennial and the like.
No one knows this better than the players.
“One time, during one of our meetings, our quarterback Greg Young stood up and said, “last year is history, this is a new team, a completely new season and we have to prove ourselves all over again,’’ Moreno said.
Moreno is one of those who subscribe to the theory, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’’
“We are going to have pretty much the same offensive philosophy as last year — we’ll use the spread a lot, with emphasis on the passing game. I’m certainly not coming in and making a lot of wholesale changes.’’
Moreno said he had spoken to Blade once after accepting the job. “I just jotted down some things I needed to catch up on, things I needed to know.’’
One thing Moreno didn’t like upon his arrival was the condition of the weight room.
“The equipment was in pretty good shape, but the area itself was very untidy, a real mess,’’ he said. “I’ve spent the better part of 2-3 days cleaning things up, getting it in good shape.’’
Last Monday, graduation night was held for both Hillsboro and Hunters Lane. Moreno attended Hunters Lane ceremonies, understandable because of the closeness he developed with so many of his former players.
“Obviously, you develop a closeness with those guys,’’ he said. “That will be the same way at Hillsboro and the same for any coach wherever he is.
“I was the one in charge of getting the trophies for the ‘Ultimate Warrior’ that is the highest honor a player can achieve. It went to five guys this year, three for football, one for wrestling, one for track. I gave them their plaques. You know there’s the possibility that once those guys leave graduation, you might not ever see them again.’’
He said two coaches have been very helpful in the transition — Campbell and East Lit coach Bubba Spears. “Both told me if there was anything I needed in terms of advice and adjusting to a head coaching position, to give them a call.’’