North Tahoe football | Lakers set for return after one-year hiatus | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe football | Lakers set for return after one-year hiatus

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com

High school football is back on Dollar Hill.

After canceling its 2014 season due to a lack of numbers, the North Tahoe football team is set to return in the fall, thanks in large part to the community's up-and-coming Pop Warner feeder program.

"The youth programs are really starting to pay off, not only with the increase in numbers, but with kids who have experience too," said longtime North Tahoe head coach Scott Everist. "That contributes greatly."

Lakers assistant coach Rob Daniels said about 50 players came out for spring practice, which lasted two weeks and concluded this past Friday. He and Everist expect that number to shrink to the upper 20s by the time the fall season fires up in August.

That's great news for the North Tahoe staff, which has not fielded a team of more than 20 players in years. The Lakers played an independent schedule against mostly 8-man teams in 2013. Nine players were listed on that roster.

"Our numbers haven't been this high in a while," Everist said. "It's exciting to be able to play again this fall."

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While the Lakers have struggled with numbers over the past decade-plus, that was far from the case in the early years of the program.

North Tahoe established itself as a dominant football force almost immediately after the school opened in 1974. Under legendary high school coach Ken Dalton, the Lakers won four consecutive Pioneer League championships and two Northern California CIF "AA" championships.

North Tahoe went on to win a Nevada 2A state title in 1986 under coach Dave Brolliar, and from 1989 through 2001 won 91 games under head coach Bill Freeman.

"Out of little North Lake Tahoe, Ken Dalton and his staff built a juggernaut," said former Sierra Sun and Tahoe World sportswriter Allan Walker. "In three seasons he took them to the top of the hill. It was a great thing for the North Tahoe community. Saturday game days in Tahoe City were electric. It was really a fun time to be covering the program."

The Lakers have work to do to regain their former prowess.

North Tahoe football has one season remaining under independent status, which was granted before the 2013 season. Everist said the Lakers will play mostly 8-man football again in 2015 against Division IV schools.

"We're hoping to really have some success this year and keep the numbers going up for when we go back into our league," Everist said, referring to North Tahoe's competitive Division III, led by perennial powers such as Yerington and Pershing County. "There's a good core of youth kids coming in. As they progress and develop, they're going to be some good ball players."

Aside from the influx in talent, Everist said the incoming eighth-grade group displayed a positive attitude during the Lakers' spring practice sessions.

"What we're excited about as coaches is that it seems like everyone is really coachable and willing to learn. They're excited that we have a football team and they want to play," the coach said. "Those are key ingredients there. Hopefully we have something running."

The North Lake Tahoe Rams Pop Warner program, which is responsible for the large number of incoming players, feeds both North Tahoe and Incline high schools. Everist said a handful of to-be freshman who were too big to play Pop Warner also competed on an"unlimited" team that was combined with Truckee players this past season.