James Pinkney knows first-hand how much Alphonso "Junior" Moran likes to win.
Pinkney, West Boca High's new offensive coordinator and a former player at Olympic Heights, played against Moran, a 2003 West Boca graduate entering his first season as the Bulls' head coach, in high school.
"He's a very fierce competitor and a very good football player," Pinkney said. "I like the direction he's trying to take the program."
The Bulls' new direction officially began on Monday morning on the first day of football practice around the state.
Moran, the Bulls' defensive coordinator the past two seasons and a member of Willie Dodaro's staff since 2008, took over when Dodaro, the only football coach in West Boca's eight-year history, resigned in June to become an assistant high school coach in Georgia.
"Nothing feels different right now," Moran said. "Football is football. Just being the head coach brings new opportunities. I have to deal with a lot more, but on the football field, I feel at home."
In the first few minutes of practice, Moran blew his whistle twice, first demanding that players begin a drill in unison, then exhorting them to show more excitement.
"He pushes you," said senior linebacker Gerald Ferguson. "He motivates you to do good things, and he wants to see the best out of you."
Ferguson said the coaching change was "unexpected, but it wasn't difficult, because we already had somebody that we knew and somebody that cared about us."
Moran, who earned first-team freshman all-Big 12 honors as a defensive tackle at Kansas State in 2004, will still call the defensive plays. One of his main goals is to reduce the 30.9 points per game the Bulls gave up in last year's 2-7 season.
"Defense will take us far," Moran said.
Senior quarterback Paul Columbo will be in charge of putting up points for the Bulls, who open the 2013 season on Aug. 30 at Spanish River.
"I have a really good connection with Coach [Moran]. I always have," Columbo said. "The coaches are doing a great job. [They're] preaching being on time, doing everything 100 percent. They really have control of the team. Everyone respects the coaches, and we're ready to play for them. We want to win for them."
West Boca will play in the reconfigured district of 13-7A with Forest Hill, Olympic Heights, Palm Beach Lakes, Dwyer, Atlantic, Royal Palm and Lake Worth.
"We have a lot of tough teams to play," Moran said. "If we come together as a team, with focus, and we meet all our team goals, at the end of the season, we'll be very successful – if we stick together and play tough and play hard for each other."
That's a philosophy Moran learned at KSU under Bill Snyder, 73, who signed a five-year contract in January after leading the Wildcats to an 11-2 record last season and earning Big 12 Coach of the Year honors from The Associated Press.
"I took a lot of things from him, and hopefully, the things I learned from him will pay off during this season," said Moran, who wouldn't mind plying his trade as long as Snyder has. "I hope they have to drag me off the field."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun