Let the preparation begin: North Tahoe football optimistic about new season | SierraSun.com

Let the preparation begin: North Tahoe football optimistic about new season

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe junior Mitchell Conn releases a pass during practice Monday. Conn is battling with junior Skyler Bradham for the starting quarterback position.

High school football coaches this time of year are as intense as their players are physically drained. So don’t dare interrupt North Tahoe’s two-a-day practices, which kicked off Monday in preparation for the program’s second season in the Northern 2A.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Lakers head coach Scott Everist. “We’re hoping to be one of the top four teams for playoffs. And I think these guys can do it. They’ve got the desire for it.”

Desire is good, Everist, said, because he and his coaching staff have been “really pushing” the players since mandatory practice began this past Thursday. And it won’t get any easier now that two-a-days have arrived.

“These guys have accepted it,” Everist said of the early-season conditioning. “They have a terrific work ethic so far. There’s good heart out here, so I’m excited about that.”

Everist has 23 players out for the team compared to 26 last year, when North Tahoe finished 3-6 in their inaugural 2A season. With such a small roster, many Lakers will play both ways ” offense and defense ” which makes conditioning, as well as avoiding injuries, that much more important.

“Injuries will be a big key for us, as always,” said Everist, who doesn’t have the luxury of a junior varsity feeder program.

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As such, the Lakers’ roster is predominantly filled with juniors and sophomores, with about four or five seniors and “a couple” freshmen, Everist said. The juniors seem to be leading the way.

“Our junior class is pretty strong,” Everist said, adding that the Lakers boast an experienced line on both sides of the ball. “We’re going to try to get it done up front. If you have that, you can do a lot of things. If our guys do the job we think they can, we’ll be all right.”

The coach expects senior co-captain James Laughlin to be a beast on both lines, as he was last year when he received first team all-state recognition on offense and defense.

At 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds, Laughlin plays offensive guard and moves around on the defensive line, “depending on who we want to pick on,” Everist said.

“He’s going to draw some attention this year. He’ll be tough to deal with.”

Laughlin will be joined on the line by fellow senior co-captain Matt Fenley, who is the Lakers’ second-largest player at center, Everist said, as well as Brandon Norris, Chris Parson and his brother, Parker Laughlin.

While the Lakers return a solid crew of linemen, they lost many of their skill players to graduation. But Everist isn’t worried.

“We’ve got some kids who we think have the talent to fill those voids,” he said. “But until we play the games, you really don’t know exactly what you’ve got.”

At quarterback, juniors Mitchell Conn and Skyler Bradham are battling for the starting job, while potential running backs include returning juniors Leroy Valadez and Forest Wiens. Junior tight end Andrew Auerbach might also play fullback, Everist said. No position is set in stone this early in the season, the coach added.

Along with the knowledge they gained last year about opponents in their new league, the Lakers can rest a little easier knowing that former 2A power Yerington is now an official member of the 3A. North Tahoe’s three wins last season came against Incline, Whittell and Mineral County (Hawthorne).

“We know our opponents a little better now, so that will help us a lot. We have film on (league opponents) now and have had more scouting opportunities,” Everist said.

The Lakers open their season with a non-league game against Biggs (Calif.) at home on Aug. 30 and host their first league game on Sept. 6 against Mineral County (Hawthorne). Before then, however, North Tahoe will tune up with a scrimmage against Truckee and Quincy at Truckee’s Surprise Stadium on Saturday.