By Ray Hamill — Hoopa football head coach Floyd “Cowboy” Billings expects the Little 4 to be very competitive this season, and he also expects his team to be right in the mix.
With all but four starters returning this fall and a well-attended offseason program, the Warriors should be competitive.
Billings and longtime assistant coach Bob Campbell will get the chance to see their players in a action against some of the top teams in the H-DNL in a six-team preseason scrimmage at Fortuna on Saturday, as they get set for their season opener at South Fork next week.
“They’ve been playing with each other since Pop Warner and they’re all tight,” Billings said. “They’re really close. They’re all friends and they’ve been playing with each other for a long time.”
A varsity roster of 24 includes 16 seniors and that leadership was evident this summer with the players putting in a lot of work together since school ended.
Billings says he expects to feature a more balanced offense this year with better options at receiver and a very deep stable of bruising runners who will split time behind a physical line.
“I’ve got a lot of big backs and I’ve got a big line for them to run behind,” the head coach said.
Lane Campbell returns at quarterback and safety, while Darvin Davis IV will move from the offensive backfield to wideout, although Billings says the versatile Davis will also see time at running back.
A bruising run game will also feature Gerard Marshall, Jason Marshall and Andrew Hunsucker.
Talented all-around athlete Gerard Marshall is the returning Little 4 MVP Lineman, as well as outstanding wrestler, and he will also see time on the line when he’s not running the ball.
Big things are also expected out of center Glenn Keisner and defensive ends Gunner Ray and Donovan Lonewolf.
Senior Rodney Clark is also back after missing much of last season through injury and he will also see time in a loaded offensive backfield.
“It will be a more balanced offense, but you know me, I’ll never get away from the run,” said Billings, who has been coaching this group of players for years along with Bob Campbell. “We’ll be a lot more balanced than last year.”
The Warriors also should have more depth and experience, with “eight or nine players that easily could play at the college level,” according to the coach.
The Hoopa players will carry plenty of momentum and confidence into the season after finishing last season strong to qualify into the North Coast Section playoffs.
Saturday’s scrimmage gets under way at 11 a.m. when the JVs take the field, with the varsity teams playing at 1 p.m.