Hare is entering his sixth season at the helm at Spanish Springs and he believes his program is good, but not good enough.
“This is Year 6. We all know what we’re doing now,” Hare said. “Expectations should be high. We’ve been good. Now it’s time to be great.”
And Hare, who also coached at Anderson High in northern California before coming to Spanish Springs, believes the Cougars could just be that.
“This is the best team I’ve had in 11 years as a head coach,” he said. “But that’s just to this point. Still, when you look at double days and summer program, this team definitely has the potential to be the best team we’ve had at Spanish Springs. But that doesn’t mean anything. We have to go out and execute and win games.
“One of these groups of kids, before we can be great, has to come through and expect to be great. It’s a mindset that good is not good enough. You have to commit to be great. To do that, you must work hard every day. We have not yet had a team, in all three aspects, that came everyday and said it wanted to be great. What I like about this team is I think it has the potential to do that, to be great.”
Spanish Springs will find out early just how good it is. The Cougars open their season Friday night at Del Oro High of Loomis, Calif., in east suburban Sacramento. The Golden Eagles were ranked as one of the top 100 programs in the nation last fall.
Hare believes his team can gain valuable experience by playing the perennial powerhouse. He admitted he is not afraid to take an early season loss to a good team if it makes his team better. He pointed to Northern 4A powers Reed and McQueen playing tough foes from California in recent years en route to having highly successful seasons.
“I want our kids to know what it’s like to play hard on every snap. Del Oro will show us,” Hare said. “I’m not worried about losing this week. I’m worried about getting better every day.”
The Spanish Springs running game has a chance to be one of the North’s best. Senior running back Conrad Tanyi returns and the big, bruising ball carrier could make a serious run at a Player of the Year or first-team all-league honor this fall.
“Our running game should be a strength,” Hare said. “Conrad has embodied our good-to-great mentality. This summer he has wanted to be all he can be. We’ve got good, big kids up front. When you’ve got physical up front and physical behind, your run game should be pretty good.”
In addition to Tanyi, another rising star in Cougars’ preseason camp has been sophomore Hunter Fralick, who has earned the squad’s starting quarterback job. Hare raves about the upside of his young signal caller.
“He has the ‘It’ factor,” Hare said. “He’s got a good feel for the game. He knows when to get rid of the football and when to keep it an extra second. He commands respect in the huddle. There’s going to be bumps and bruises along the way but I have not seen a sophomore with the ability he has and he wants to be good.”
Hare believes Tanyi and Fralick will be leaders for his club but he also pointed to Vinny Agliolo, Nikk Audenreid, Jesse Berry and JJ Phoenix as student athletes he expects to provide much-needed leadership.
If there is an area of concern for the Cougars’ coaching staff as it preps for the fast-approaching season, it’s the receiving corps. With a first-year starter under center, it would be nice to have a veteran group of receivers, but that’s far from the case for the SSHS gridders.
“Every guy that’s out for wide receiver is new,” Hare said. “With a sophomore quarterback, how they come together will be key. There’s a lot of talent out there, but that doesn’t mean we have the chemistry to have success. It’s a group that is unknown, with no varsity experience. All unknowns are a little scary. That translates to our defensive secondary as well because those are all the same kids fighting for jobs.”
Hare said after Saturday’s scrimmage against Manogue that a handful of players surprised and excelled when given an opportunity to fight for playing time. He was pleased to see some athletes flourish but frustrated to see others take a back seat. But he also knows that’s what preseason camp is for, to see who can play and who can’t.
“We are in the evaluation process,” he said. “We don’t know yet if we’ve got the best 11 on the field.”