By Ray Hamill — It’s been a frustrating and inconsistent offseason for the defending Big 4 football champions, but the players are remaining positive and hope to resume some type of conditioning program in the near future.
After storming their way to the conference title a year ago, the Del Norte Warriors went on to win their first-ever North Coast Section championship and qualify for a first-ever state bowl game.
The offseason, however, has been a challenge to say the least, as it has been for all the H-DNL schools because of the ongoing pandemic.
The Del Norte players returned to the weight room for a month or so over the summer, before being shut down again.
The players, however, have remained positive.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” head coach Nick White said. “But they’re always in pretty good spirits, as far as being optimistic. When we got together it was awesome. It was right back to the grind and having fun just being together. The kids need that.”
The season is not scheduled to begin until February with an all-local schedule planned and approved by the league.
But when they do resume, the defending Big 4 champs could be the team to beat once again, despite losing a number of talented seniors from last season’s dominating squad.
“We have a lot of impactful sophomores from last year’s JVs who will be juniors and moving up,” said White, who is in his second year as a head coach after several years as an assistant with the team. “We’ve got a good group of kids coming in and some key seniors back.”
The players’ enthusiasm was more than evident during the brief summer weight room program, with around 40 kids showing up regularly and working out in small groups.
“It was a pretty good turnout,” White said. “It was our best weight room turnout since I’ve been a part of the program.”
Key returning standouts
The Warriors will rely on their four returning all-league selections to lead the way, including running back and Big 4 offensive MVP Levi Cox Cooley.
Also back are senior linebacker Tanner Forkner, a first-team all-league selection, as well wide receiver/safety Kaleb Price, an all-league honorable mention.
Junior Sam Schauerman will also return along the line and is expected to have a big impact after a breakout varsity campaign in 2019, which earned him first-team all-league honors.
“He’ll be ready to go,” White said of Schauerman, who will be fully healthy again after tearing his ACL late in the season. “We’re excited about him. He’ll bring a lot of explosiveness on the line and make some big plays.”
For now, however, the Warriors remain on hold, while the school continues with distance learning.
“We’re just waiting and seeing what’s going to happen here the next few weeks,” White said. “Everything’s just kind of a waiting game, and honestly it’s super frustrating. We’re chomping at the bit to get back in the routine.”