By Gene Helfman
Special to the Weekly
Coach Larry Berg has had mean years, lean years, and in-between years. Never before has he had the luxury of fielding a team packed with experienced players.
With a squad of 24 players, anchored by seven seniors and five juniors, Berg has reasons to feel optimistic.
“The older boys have been through game time situations. They have become part of our coaching staff. We can concentrate on skills and planning,” Berg said. “Our older players know what the younger kids are thinking, how to build their confidence. The upper classmen will lead by example.”
And Berg said having 24 players means they won’t have to concede to anyone. In the past, the combination of small squads and injuries have required Berg to put boys into situations late in a game that stretched their abilities.
“This year, we should be able to play more boys at their best positions, and maybe even give them a little rest,” Berg said.
Despite having key players who graduated last year, Berg is confident that the team has plenty of boys eager to step up and fill their shoes.
And those are pretty big shoes to step into.
Last year, Lopez went 9-0 in regular season play, won the league championship, and went on to District Playoffs. Lopez lost there to powerhouse Neah Bay, a team that eventually captured the State 1B Championship. In addition, the 2011 team won the John Trotto Sportsmanship Award, “which shows that we’re developing good citizens as well as good football players,” said Berg.
Berg will be aided by assistant coaches Nate Borg and Aaron Dye. Seniors include Solomon Bill, James Brant, Derek Buffum, Daniel Jenison, Joe O’Bryant, Jaise Poole and Chase Schober.
“We’ve had tremendous fan support in the past,” Berg said. “And success that would have been difficult to predict given our numbers. This year, we hope to reward our fans with even better play and a championship season.”