The players have been in quarantine for much of the past two weeks after one of them tested positive for COVID, and they had to cancel their scheduled game last weekend.
But they appear ready to go this week and even considering how their preparation has been adversely affected, this is a team with some key experience and one that should be tough to stop over the next month.
“It’s a good mixture,” head coach Nick White said. “Our seniors were some of our main players last year. We’ve got really good leadership with a mix of young talent. And also young players that got playing time last year. And they’ve all been in the weight room and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Three seniors in particular are expected to play a major role, Tanner Forkner, Levi Cox-Cooley and Kaleb Price.
Forkner had a major impact at linebacker for the Warriors last season on their way to a state bowl game, and is expected to be even better this spring.
“He’s the quintessential player you want in your program,” White said. “He’s tough, smart, hard working, everything you could want in a player.”
Cox-Cooley, meanwhile, is the returning Big 4 Offensive MVP after rushing for 1,667 yards in 2019 and scoring 14 TDs.
And his head coach believes he will be even better as a senior.
“He’s going to build off what he did last year,” White said. “He’s faster, bigger, more explosive. He’s on another level.”
CalHiSports.com recently named Cox-Cooley on its Small Schools All-State Player Watch List, the only current H-DNL player named on the prestigious list and one of just eight running backs in the state to be included.
Price, meanwhile, is also back and looks much improved on a year ago.
“He’s really taken a huge step from what he was last year,” White said. “He’s become a leader and put in a lot of hard work.”
The three returning senior standouts will be co-captains on this year’s team, along with junior lineman Sam Schauerman, who emerged as big-time player during his sophomore season.
“He’s a beast,” White said. “He’s very, very smart. He’s a next-level kid.”
The head coach has 22 players on the varsity roster, in addition to 25 on the JV squad.
“I really like our work ethic and our camaraderie,” he said. “It’s a great group of kids that want to play with each other.
“I’m super proud of all the kids. They’re really good dudes. I’d rather have 22 good ones than 40 kids that are not committed.”
Junior Giancarlo Desolenni will start at middle linebacker and has been one of the team’s most impressive players during the preseason.
“He’s like a heat-seeking missile,” White said of Desolenni. “He goes hard, and when he gets there, there’s going to be a collision.”
Senior Mike Germain also has been turning some heads in preseason with his play at cornerback, returning to the team for the first time since his freshman year.
“He’s a pretty talented kid,” White said, before adding, “he should have been playing football the whole time.”
Another senior, Garrett Holmes, also has been leading by example and will play linebacker, guard and some special teams.
“He’s a great kid to have on our program,” White said. “He does everything we ask of him.”
After Saturday’s game against Arcata (at McKinleyville High), the Warriors will play three more games, hosting Eureka and Fortuna on back-to-back weekends before closing out the shortened season at St. Bernard’s on April 17.
“The expectations are to play as hard as we can and play for each other,” White said.