By Ray Hamill — The Hoopa Valley Warriors are having fun again.
Despite a troubled start to the football season that has included two losses, way too many injuries and a couple of car accidents, the Warriors are almost completely healthy again and feeling rejuvenated.
Fresh off a bye last weekend, the Warriors (0-2) will host Trinity (0-2) under the lights on Friday night, and will head into the showdown with a fresh outlook.
“We used the bye to regroup,” head coach Sonny Ryles said. “And to rejuvenate and get healthy and get back to having fun and working hard.”
With the exception of senior Milton Mabry, who is out for the season after a recent car accident — the second car accident involving Hoopa linemen in the past month — the offensive and defensive lines are finally looking healthy.
Center David Ruiz will anchor the O-line alongside guards Joseph Lewis and Bronc Colegrove, and tackles Colton Hayes and Trayce Crutchfield.
“They’re extremely important (to us),” Ryles said of the starting group. “I throw a lot at them and they handle it. They’re very receptive and very smart, and they’re having fun and coming together as a unit.”
Campbell to start at QB
Starting quarterback John Smith is still out through injury, giving the reliable Tristin Campbell his second straight start at the position.
That opens the way for sophomore AJ Perez to get the start in the offensive backfield.
Perez, who has seen plenty of time at linebacker through the opening two games, has stepped up his offensive game in practice the past two weeks and has earned a starting spot for the Trinity game.
“He’s had a really good last few weeks and we’re really excited about him,” Ryles said. “He can run some routes, and he runs really hard when he has the ball, so he’s capable of running up the middle.”
And that’s not all the sophomore brings to the table.
“His pass blocking is good,” Ryles said of the undersized back. “He’s determined. He blocks with a lot of heart.”
The Warriors will try to spread it out on offense, utilizing Sam Jones as a slot receiver, along with standout wideouts Carlos Aguilar and Jasper Hostler.
“We want to get the ball to the perimeter and play uptempo,” Ryles said of the Trinity game. “And our kids are having a lot of fun with it in practice.”
Senior Aiden Mendes and junior Pergish Montgomery will each also see plenty of the ball at slot receiver for the game.
“They key for us is to stop their running game and force them to pass,” Ryles said. “And for us, it’s being able to get the ball out quickly, play uptempo and get it to our athletes.”
The Hoopa JVs (0-1) will also be in action against the Trinity JVs (0-2) on Friday night and also are overcoming some early-season injuries.
“Our JVs are healthy again,” Ryles said. “They’re really a confident bunch and I really like their energy.”
The JVs get things under way at 5:30 p.m., followed by the varsity at 7:30 p.m.