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PORTOLA HIGH SCHOOL
Portola High School Credits BFS to Three Section Championships
By Howard Thomas • Principal, Portola High
Published: Spring 2001

On November 22, 2000, Portola High School of Portola, California defeated East Nicolas 28-7 to win the CIF North Section Division IV Championship. This championship was the culmination of a three-year conditioning and team-building project, which included the use of the BFS Program as part of it’s rebuilding plan. This was the Tigers’ first visit to the playoffs since back-to-back CIFNS "A" Championships in ‘90 and ‘91.
But why did the Portola Tigers fall behind for nine seasons? After the ‘91 season, Portola High was moved into a higher "AA" league which also required longer road trips. The level of competition was stiffer. In addition, the program went through many coaching changes and weight conditioning philosophies. The winning attitude of the ‘90 and ‘91 teams carried over for a couple of seasons with 6-3 and 5-4 records and a JV League Co-Championship in ‘93. But we were not qualifying for the playoffs, and seven losing seasons followed. For some athletes, this was not acceptable. Instead of finding ways to improve, they chose not to participate. In 1997, our turnout dwindled to a low of 14 in a school of 250 students. Every week we had to face teams with as many as 30-35 players. We had to play Iron-man ball, while our opponents were platooning. The overall attitude and confidence was at an all-time low. Fan support and community interest was also in a decline.
In order to change the direction of the program, the coaching staff had to make some drastic changes. In the summer of 1998, JV Head Coach, Ron Jacobson, reintroduced the BFS Program to the young athletes on the JV team. A daily lifting routine following BFS guidelines was built into the JV practice schedule. This was a major factor in the JV team’s 9-1 record. The message was sent-hard work will pay off. These athletes carried their lifting regimen into the off-season.
We knew that we had to do something different in order to compete at this level. We needed to build the athlete’s self-esteem and work ethic, not just on the field but also in the classroom. It is our belief that athletics and academics must work together for both to be successful. One thing the three championship teams of ‘90, ‘91, and ‘00 had in common was that the team players excelled in the classroom. The offensive line in ‘91 had an overall GPA of 3.6 and most of the seniors went on to attend four-year colleges, including West Point, Oberlin and U.C. Davis. This year’s team had an overall GPA of 3.4, led by senior quarterback and team MVP Jake Pruitt. Jake had an overall GPA of 3.8 and over a 4.0 during football, while taking honors classes in English, History, and Calculus.
But probably the most important thing in common held by the championship teams was that the players realized the importance of a strong workout ethic. Weight training was a must in order to be successful. When the first group of champs was in Junior High, they attended a Bigger Faster Stronger Clinic. A majority of the athletes participated in this program. When the Tigers qualified for their 1st Section Championship game in 1986, prior to this clinic, we had a starting lineman who could only bench 135 pounds. After having a BFS clinic, the ‘90 and ‘91 teams had all of the linemen benching 200+ pounds. Morgan Baker, our best defensive player and one of only two players weighing over 200 pounds, could bench 275.
During the spring of 1999, Portola hosted a BFS clinic, instructed by Bob Bozied from BFS, for both coaches and athletes. It was this clinic that brought another major component into our athletic plan. We added some components of BFS program to our PE classes. The PE teachers utilize many of the features of BFS, such as the dot drill. It is a great sight to walk into a gym class and see forty students of all abilities doing the Dot Drill at the same time. The PE teachers promote the whole program for those who want to use the weight room.
Since Portola is a small school, we have to develop the students we have. We don’t have the luxury of the numbers some of the schools have. Most of the best athletes have to play both ways, so our conditioning must be superior. As the 1998 JV team grew into the 2000 Varsity team, their lifting sessions became more intense and dedicated.
Our project has been successful. We have restored our self-esteem. Winning has also brought the community together to support our football program. “It is all worth the effort, to see our players faces after our division championship,” said coach Bass. More students have expressed an interest in playing next year. Our next challenge is now on our doorstep. Can we sustain this energy level? I believe so, with the help of the Bigger Faster Stronger Program.


The BFS Program provides a plan the athletes love, because it is motivational. It promotes goal setting, record breaking and teamwork. Athletes can set PR’s everyday! The athletes want to continue lifting. It is no longer just hard work, it is FUN!
--Howard Thomas

Portola Football
Justin Ward Box Squatting 480 lbs with Coach Jacobson checking his form.
Don Whitebird working on Inclines a BFS auxiliary lift.

Return to Spring 2001 Articles


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