By Ray Hamill — The Hoopa Warriors will be ready to play football this week.
After being forced to cancel their scheduled opener at Fort Bragg on Friday due to a lack of available players, the Warriors are healthy again and ready to kick off their campaign a week later than expected.
A car crash a week before the season left three of the Hoopa players hospitalized, although none of them received major injuries.
All three are now back with the team, although two of them remain limited.
A bad situation got worse for the Warriors at practice last week, with three more players suffering injuries that would have kept them out of the trip to Fort Bragg.
All three are available again this week, while the coaching staff has added a few sophomores to the varsity squad for added depth, moving them up from a freshmen-heavy JV team which will be idle this week when Hoopa hosts St. Bernard’s.
Hoopa head coach Sonny Ryles admits the canceled game has put his team’s progress behind.
“It definitely put us back,” Ryles said. “We’re behind the other teams in game speed situations and working through the kinks. I’d imagine we’ll have a few penalties this week.”
Friday night’s game won’t be an easy opener against a dynamic St. Bernard’s team that has several weapons on both sides of the ball and ran out to a 36-0 first-half lead in its opener at El Molino last weekend.
“Their offense is pretty explosive, and they onside kick a lot. We’ll be expecting that. They’re going to be aggressive on special teams,” Ryles said. “And you can always count on their defense to be fast.”
The Warriors will rely heavily on their banged up offensive line to create time and space for their skilled players to make the plays, and if they do, the Warriors are well equipped to cause their opponents problems.
“We’ve got to be able to move the chains and take some time off the clock, and ultimately finish any chance we get in the red zone,” the coach added. “And we’ve got to try not to shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties.”
And most importantly, the coach is looking for a big effort from his players.
“We’ve got to be able to play four full quarters and not hang our heads,” the coach said.
Friday night’s kickoff in Hoopa is scheduled for 7 p.m.