By Ray Hamill — Football is building momentum again in Southern Humboldt.
This fall will not only see the South Fork Cubs return to 11-person football for the first half of the season but also the return of the area’s youth football program, which will field three teams.
The South Fork High team has competed in eight-person football for the past six years but is eying a full return to 11-person competition in 2024.
In the meantime, head coach Karl Terrell is getting his team ready for the jump with five games scheduled against 11-person programs this fall, including the season opener at home against Fort Bragg on Friday night.
The Cubs will also match up against Hoopa, Ferndale, Clear Lake and Kennedy, before switching down to eight-person football for league play over the second half of the campaign.
And with three youth football teams — for the first time in seven or eight years, according to Terrell, who will also be coaching the AAA team — the Cubs are hopeful of even adding a high school JV team “a couple of years down the road, if youth football keeps rolling,” the coach said.
Terrell and the Cubs have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years and have the second best record in eight-person football in the NCS over the past six years.
And that should continue this year with a core group of 15 players back on a roster of 21, including all four team captains, seniors Broc Conteras, Shevy Bero-Vanmeter and Justin Freitas and junior Wesley Way.
Freitas, who will play defensive end and running back, is the most experienced of the group and will be playing for a fourth year at the varsity level, while the other three captains are all three-year starters.
Bero-Vanmeter will start at quarterback after firmly establishing himself at the position last year and will also line up as a defensive back and at linebacker, while Conteras will play receiver and strong safety, as well as serving as the Cubs’ kick returner.
Way, meanwhile, will play running back, outside linebacker and defensive back, and he will be expected to play a pivotal role after putting on 30 pounds since last year, especially in the offensive backfield.
And it’s that veteran leadership and maturity that Terrell likes the most about this year’s team.
“What I like is the junior and senior leadership,” the longtime head coach said. “You always want to get to that level. They know the game and they go out and play it with no hesitation.
“I think we’ve got a good set of offensive skilled guys.”
The Cubs also feature some key experience in the interior line, with seniors Josey Paula and Lucas Genolio expected to anchor both lines.
Both players held their own at this past weekend’s scrimmage.
“They showed they can handle both sides of the ball,” Terrell said. “And they’re great players to coach. They go out and they do what we ask.”
The addition of the athletic Trevor Hunt this fall will also help and the first-year football player is expected to have an immediate impact on both lines.
The 6-3, 225-pound junior played soccer last fall and is one of the Cubs’ best up-and-coming basketball player.
Friday night’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. and Terrell and his players are looking forward to the challenge.
“Offensively we’ve got to execute,” the head coach said. “I don’t care who’s in front of you, you’ve got to execute.
“But we’re looking forward to the season and we feel we can go out and play with whoever we’ve got to play.”