By Ray Hamill — Conditions have been far from ideal for the Hoopa Valley Warriors as they prepare for a tough test to open the prep football season this weekend.
The California wildfires have forced head coach William Simms and his players to practice indoors as much as outside since they began preseason training three weeks ago.
“It’s kind of hard to judge,” Simms said when asked about his team this week. “We’ve had a lot of smoke and not enough practice.”
Numbers, however, haven’t been a problem for the Warriors, with about 26 players expected on the varsity roster and another 25 with the JVs.
That includes a key group of returning varsity starters whom the coaching staff will be looking to for some veteran leadership.
Junior David Ruiz returns as a starter on both lines, while senior William Reynolds will start for the third straight year at receiver and safety.
Another senior, Kimit Peters, returns at fullback and along the defensive line, and big things are expected out of him.
“He’s pretty hungry this year. It seems like he wants it,” Simms said of Peters.
The starting quarterback position is currently a three-way battle between senior Leonard Smith and juniors Tristin Campbell and John Leonard, the former and latter of whom are brothers.
Whoever gets the start will have the luxury of throwing to junior Carlos Aguilar, whom the head coach describes as the “best wide receiver in the county.”
“He’s a stud,” Simms said of Aguilar, a two-year varsity starter.
Overall, the first-year head coach, who has served as an assistant with the program since 2012, is happy with his players’ approach.
“My favorite thing about this group is that they are coming to practice as a team,” Simms said. “I can really see that in this group. They don’t want to lose.”
As for what to expect from the Warriors when they do take the field this Saturday at Galileo, the defending 6-A state champions out of San Francisco, the coach wasn’t giving a whole lot away.
“I think we’re going to be a run-heavy team,” he said. “But we’ve also got some quarterbacks that can sling the ball.”
As for the season opener, Williams is expecting a tough battle and hoping to see his players ready to play as a cohesive unit.
“It should be interesting,” he said. “I’m hoping to see a team effort. Not individual efforts, a team effort. And I’d like to see us run the ball effectively, I’d like to see no turnovers, and I’d like to see our defense tackle.”
On the sidelines this season, Simms is joined by offensive coordinator Sonny Ryles, defensive coordinator Tashone Rice, O-line/JV coach Cody Billings, and wide receivers coach Mike Robinson.
Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Last Year — 1-9 (0-4 in league)
Head Coach — William Simms, first year
Key Returning Players — WR/CB Carlos Aguilar; RB/S William Reynolds; OL/DL David Ruiz; FB/DT Kimit Peters.
Circle the Calendar — Ferndale (Sept. 21); Arcata (Sept. 28); McKinleyville (Oct. 26)
Outlook — Limited preseason preparation has hampered a program that has struggled in recent years. A revamped Little 4 will even the playing field somewhat for the Warriors, who have some quality players at key positions. Whether or not that’s enough to challenge for a league title or even a winning season remains to be seen, but the Warriors could surprise some people along the way.
Aug. 24 at Galileo 2 p.m.
Aug. 31 Etna 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 8 at St. Bernard’s 1 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Trinity 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 Ferndale 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 Arcata 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 at McKinleyville 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 13 at Ferndale 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Arcata 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 McKinleyville 7:30 p.m.