Trust the System: Saints aiming to bounce back from last year

Talialaina Letoi

The Xavier Prep Saints are looking to bounce back from a down year last fall. But with the leadership and experience from their sideline boss, Head Coach James Dockery, it’s making the transition easier.

“I’m always excited. We’re blessed to be out here to be a head coach to teach these young guys the game that I love so much. We’re really excited. But we’re also anxious because we got a lot of work to do and not so much time.”

For the Saints, the excitement is building across the roster.

Senior Tyson Ruiz, who’s started all four years at Xavier Prep, says this year is different.

“I’m probably most excited out of all the four years I’ve been here so far. This new year is just with like a whole new team. We all have each other’s backs during training camp, during weight room, during offseason — everything.”

He’s used to turning heads in the Desert Empire League, but Ruiz says it’s bigger than him.

“We especially to come through to show the valley that last year isn’t who we really are. And this year is going to be new Xavier.”

And he’s not the only one. Junior Elijah Vaikona, will be without his older brother Christian on the line with him. But it opens up the door for him to shine on his own.

“I think I’m like, more excited than I have in the past three years. It’s going to be different, you know, without him because I’ve had him right next to me the past two years. But this year, I feel like it’s definitely my time to show who I am. As he’s off at college ballin’. So this is my year to show that I am my own player.”

The interior lineman says he’s excited for the new year just like his teammates and they’re unlocking a new level of confidence to head into it with.

“Especially like the past few years, we’ve had the same O-line. But now we’re finally like the big kids on town. So we’re just ready like it’s time to show like who we are — ready to gonna smash the football down everyone.”

He’s one of several guys stepping up to lead the way. First-year starter Joe Berry is ready for his new role as well behind the center and can feel the difference across the board.

“My first year starting. So like, I just wanna be confident in myself make the right reads. And just when it’s very nerve wracking, but I’m also super excited…  I mean, every single team we’ve had, Xavier’s definitely had some chemistry. So if we keep that chemistry up, it’ll be a good team.”

Ruiz also says, the team’s much closer than before.

“Last year, it seemed like we’re all kind of like playing our own game and on the game as a team. And this year, you could expect to sort of play with each other, you know, have each other’s backs come out on fire every game. And most importantly, we’re gonna keep the intensity up every game,

A big factor this season though, trust. Just as Coach Dockery says to, “just trust the system.”

“I know that’s kind of cliché, every coach says that. But really, you know, that’s what our guys been saying. They like to break the huddle, just saying ‘trust the system.’ What that means is just always being accountable on your alignment, your assignment, your technique, taking it one play at a time when we got to time and just trusting each other.”

The leadership and experience that Coach Dockery brings to the team is unmatched and undeniable. But he’s more than just a coach for them.

Ruiz says, “He’s been a really, really good role model to the whole team. He knows how to connect with the player, not just on the football field, but in the classroom. On a personal level. If there’s one thing I can really say about him is that he has the best interest in us and every player here because no matter what happens, he loves us and he helps us be the best we can be.”

Coach Dockery says he just thinks of himself as a ‘player’s coach.’

“What I mean by that is, I like to have fun with my players and I like them to feel loved. I’d like them to feel excited because once you know that they love you or once they know that I love them. They’re gonna play a lot harder. So I try to be an exciting coach for them. But if you ask my players, they’ll say that I’m probably a little crazy at times or a little hard on them. But our standard is our standard so we hold them to that.”

The Saints kick off their season hosting the Coachella Valley Mighty Arabs August 18th on Cook Street.

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