A Little "Swett" Goes a Long Way
From 2-8 to 10-0 in just one season, John Swett High School found the BFS secrets to success
By Brian Cornelius
Published: Spring 2003
Seventeen helmets, a program
in disarray, and a new league
that surely would set his team up for failure. Those were the problems John Angell inherited three years ago when he took his first varsity head-coaching job at his alma mater, John Swett High School, in Crockett, California.
After suffering through two 2-8 losing seasons, Angell and his coaching staff of two decided to investigate their options for rebuilding the athletic program. Now, a year into the Bigger Faster Stronger system, the Indians have enjoyed one of the most successful football campaigns in the school’s 86-year history. Swett finished the regular season 10-0, just missing the North Coast Section championship game by the difference of an extra point.
“Nobody ever thought we would go 10-0 in this league—I was skeptical myself,” says Angell, who admitted that one of his goals this year was to reach a .500 record. “Going 10-0 in league is tremendous for this school.”
John Swett High School is located in a blue-collar town, steps from the C&H Sugar Factory about 25 minutes north of San Francisco, and has an enrollment of 540 students. The student body draws from the 3,200 population of Crockett, nearby Rodeo and parts of Pinole. Historically, the school has been anything but a perennial powerhouse in athletics. Much of the problem, especially in football, could be attributed to the school’s lack of a quality weight room.
In the mid-70s one of the Crockett citizens welded some primitive weight lifting racks to give to the school. The machines, which Angell, a 1989 John Swett grad, worked out with in high school, were the same ones he inherited when he took over the program. The same could be said of the upper-level classroom converted into a weight room that the team still works out in.
John Swett had some successes in its football past, winning Superior California Athletic League titles in 1976, ‘88, ‘89, ‘91 and ‘96. Angell’s first year also marked the school’s first season in the North Coast Section’s Bay Shore Athletic League, a league in which the 1A Indians were by far the smallest school, playing schools with larger enrollments and deeper pockets.
“The league really wasn’t set up for John Swett to win,” Angell said. “Littler guys like us had to find something to even out the playing field. John Swett had never lifted weights before. We would just come out in August and start playing football. I knew when we transferred into this league we would have to do something to make us better. We sat down and went through different things. We looked at all the different weight lifting programs and we figured out that Bigger, Faster, Stronger was something we could do here at the school with the limited resources that we have.”
After they managed to have some used equipment donated to the school, Angell and company started the Bigger Faster Stronger program with The BFS Total Program Book. After the team had followed the program for a number of weeks, it became apparent that the program was going to help Swett reach the next level. In order to push the team over the top, Angell then purchased the Beat the Computer program, which began challenging his kids even further. “It’s great!” Angell said. “It is fast, the kids get in and out, and they stick to the program.”
Indians senior linemen Rick Patterson and Ryan Vallis are prime examples of how the team improved itself. When the duo was in their sophomore year, the team went to a passing league/lineman competition at Napa High School. While the team excelled at the passing league, as Angell put it, “We were laughed out of the strength portion.” The team’s strongest athlete, Patterson, managed to push up 185 pounds just two times, while his counterparts were slinging the same weight 30-plus times.
This season Patterson was the inaugural member of the John Swett 1,500-Pound Club, which means that in an athlete’s four core lifts, he can lift a total of at least 1,500 pounds. Patterson’s strength also helped him earn the co-BSAL Lineman of the Year honor.
Vallis was not far behind Patterson in the 1,500-Pound Club. Since starting the program, Vallis said he has improved 150 pounds on his bench press and “a couple hundred on squats and deadlift and 100 on power cleans.”
“I wasn’t doing well at all in the beginning,” says Vallis, who was selected as an All-BSAL Lineman. “I couldn’t lift a lot of weight and I was fat and slow. I have gained speed, lost weight, gained muscle. I used to weigh 175 pounds. I now weigh 205.”
But Vallis and Patterson are not the only players that have benefited from the program. Nine other players are in Swett’s newly founded 1,200-Pound Club. Once the season started, the added strength showed in terms of overall play.
Defensively, the Indians were a brick wall. They notched six shutouts in the 12 games played. As a unit, the defense ranked number one in the East San Francisco Bay Area—which also features the nation’s top-ranked team, De La Salle—for yards allowed per game, allowing 153 per game. The Indians accomplished the feat without one standout all-star, as seven people had over 30 tackles in 10 regular season games played. And if the stellar play in the regular season hadn’t been enough, the Indians opened up the North Coast Section playoffs as the number-two seed against number seven, St. Vincent of Petaluma. In that game, Swett’s defense held the Mustangs to just eight yards of total offense, which is an NCS playoff record.
While the Indians were more than solid on defense, it was their offense that stunned their competition with a devastating ground attack. John Swett saw two of its running backs rush for over 1,000 yards. Sophomore Nate Boatwright led the team with 1,119 yards on just 109 carries (10.3 yards per carry). Anthony Parrish had 1,067 yards on 96 carries (11.1 ypc). Cole Adam shipped in with 821 yards on 82 carries (10.0 ypc). The team broke the school’s single-game offensive yards record of 453 yards twice in the season. First Swett posted 457 yards, and then the team rushed for 577 against Walnut Creek’s Berean Christian. In all, the team finished with a Swett record of 3,650 total rushing yards.
Even with his team’s offensive and defensive dominance this season, it was something that BFS contributed and did not show in the box score that amazes Angell. “We went through 12 games this year and we did not have one [muscle] pull,” Angell said. “You have 25 to 30 kids out on the field and not to have one get a pull all season, that is amazing.”
Now, a little less than three months after their incredible playoff run, the Indians have started testing again. As Angell prepares his kids for another year of the BFS program, he cannot help but reflect on how he got involved in the program.
“They started sending us the magazines here at the school,” said Angell of Bigger Fast Stronger. “We felt we needed to get a program that would help us get better on the football field. We were 2-8 for the past two years. As we were going along, we thought, ‘We have to get something that will help us compete in this league.’”
Little did the coach know the program would eventually help transform his team into a league powerhouse. It’s happened to hundreds of teams across the country that use BFS, and this time it was the Indians’ turn. All it took was an Angell and some serious Swett.
Brian Cornelius is the sports editor for GetLocaNews.com.