Larry Branson, Mountain View High School’s new head football coach, said his players will be ready to dig in by the start of the season, when they play Marana High School on Aug. 26. To prepare, the Lions will be on the field at 12:01 a.m. when official practice begins on Aug. 4.

Structure and stability are essential for a successful football program. However, with its third new head coach in three years, Mountain View High School is struggling.

Larry Branson, who was hired in February after first-year coach Justin Argraves left for Tucson High School, said he knows he has his work cut out for him moving forward.

Mountain View finished 3-7 last season, and from fans down to players, faith in the program has faded, Branson said.

“We have some good players out there, we just have to get all of them on the same page,” he said. “The seniors on this team have been through three different head coaches; there is no stability.”

If anyone can turn around the Mountain View program, it’s Branson.

The coach, who stresses a love for high school football, is a member of the National Football Hall of Fame for excellence in high school coaching.

Branson moved from Missouri to Arizona two years ago. He worked in Toltec for two years while waiting for a head coaching position to open up.

When Mountain View began scouting for a new coach last February, he jumped at the opportunity, he said.

“I am known for turning programs around, and that’s what I want to do here,” Branson said.

To make that turnaround, Branson has spent a lot of the summer focusing on speed training, strength and mind training.

Argraves took a lot of the coaching staff with him to Tucson High, and so Branson has brought in new personnel and focused on building relationships with the players.

One of the new aspects of training comes from Mike Hernandez, who spent the summer working with players on speed training.

To work on attitude and mind training, Branson has lined up a visit with the Pima County Regional SWAT team.

“These guys with the SWAT team know if one or more guys don’t do their job, someone’s going to get hurt,” said Branson. “It’s the same thing with those 11 men on the football field.”

Physically, Branson said his players will be ready by the start of the season, when they play Marana High School on Aug. 26. However, changing the atmosphere and spirit surrounding the program will take a little longer.

Branson said the reality is school spirit and attitude will change with winning.

A tough schedule isn’t going to make it easy for the Mountain View Lions to win in the 2011-2012 season, but Branson said he is confident in the team’s talents.

Under the recent Arizona Interscholastic Association changes, Mountain View is now a Division II team, but will battle many of the same opponents as last season.

“We are going to be playing a lot of playoff-bound teams,” said Branson. “If you want to be good, you’ve got to play the best teams.”

A believer that fall football sets the tone, Branson said if the Mountain View Lions do well this season, it will mean a better year for the entire school.

“We can’t continue being a 3-7 team,” he said.

Confident the Lions are going to surprise some teams in the new season, Branson is creating new traditions to improve attitude.

On Aug. 4, when the official practice begins like many other football programs, the Mountain View Lions will be the first on the field.

The Lions will begin a full pads practice at 12:01 a.m.

In the meantime, the players will continue with light practices and weight training.

Visit www.maranausd.org for the team’s schedule of games.

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