By Ray Hamill … The Del Norte Warriors will be looking to put the disappointment of 2017 behind them when they open the new campaign at home to Ferndale on Friday night, and head coach Lewis Nova believes his players have the right mindset to do just that.
After going 3-7 a year ago and struggling against the Big 5 opposition, Nova says his players have been working hard during the offseason.
“We’re getting better each week,” the head coach said. “We’re still kind of young, but we have a number of experienced players coming back and the leadership is looking good.”
No preseason jamboree for the Warriors has left them behind schedule in terms of preparation for a tough season opener at home to Ferndale, but Del Norte possesses a wealth of experience at some key positions.
Most notably at quarterback, where the athletic Ethan Price returns for his third year as starter.
Price who is also a standout pole vaulter and high jumper in track and field, will be a threat running and passing and is a dangerous scrambler when the play breaks down.
“Obviously he’s going to be a big factor for us,” Nova said of Price. “And he’s a leader for us on and off the field.”
Like his fellow Big 4 starting quarterbacks Zac Claus of Fortuna and Cruz Montana of Eureka, Price brings a lot of experience to the position.
“I think he’s broadening his vision,” Nova said. “So when he’s looking down the field, he’s seeing multiple receivers and not focusing in on one, and his running game, whether it’s a designed play or a scramble, is going to be a big key for us.”
Also returning to bring some veteran leadership for the Warriors are linemen Luke King and Eli Larson, while junior tackle/DL Timothy Thompson is also expected to be a big contributor along both lines.
Another returning player is Sebastian Puente, a senior linebacker/running back who has impressed in the preseason and is expected to play a big role.
Defensively, junior Nick Freeman is back as a second-year starter at defensive back, and will also see some time at running back.
“Last year wasn’t a good year for us. We had forfeited games, we had smoke games, we had fire games,” Nova said. “What I’m really excited about is that we’ve dealt with that and now they’re looking to be better.”
The effort in the offseason has certainly been evident.
“They were in the weight room, and a number of them really hit it hard,” the coach said.
The Warriors, however, will have a tough time in league play against some loaded opposition, and Nova and his players know they will have their hands full against Eureka, Fortuna and newcomers St. Bernard’s.
“You couldn’t paint it any tougher,” the coach said. “You’ve got the returning state champions, you’ve got the state champions from three years ago, and you’ve got Eureka which reached the (Section) semifinals, and they’re returning a lot of people. And there’s no rematch this year so every game is so important.”
The Warriors expect to carry about 33 players on their roster this year.
Aug. 17 Ferndale 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 24 at Arcata 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 at Yreka 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 Brookings-Harbor 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14 Mazma 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Fortuna 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 Trinity 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 Fortuna 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Eureka 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at St. Bernard’s 1 p.m.