North Tahoe Lakers football returns to Class 2A for 2017 season | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe Lakers football returns to Class 2A for 2017 season

North Tahoe’s football team huddles up after completing practice on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The Lakers will host Incline on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.

After spending last season playing under independent status, which included a mix of eight-man and 11-man football games, the North Tahoe football team is back in Class 2A, and looking to improve on last year's 6-3 record.

The Lakers took a big step forward last year, producing the first winning season in more than a decade, and with a large group of juniors leading the way, the team is looking to again mix it up with their Northern Region foes.

"It was a big step forward for us. Now, we are rejoining Northern 2A and 11-man football," Head Coach Scott Everist said.

"There's a lot of things coming at us, but we keep progressing. We're looking forward to a good season. There's some tough games on that schedule, and there's some games we can win."

The Lakers will benefit from the return of junior quarterback Thomas Mercogliano, who will enter his third year as the team's starting quarterback.

Mercogliano is coming off a prolific 2016 campaign where he led the Lakers in rushing with 1,865 yards and an average of 19.2 yards per carry, according to stats from MaxPreps.com.

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"Coming off of last season really gave us a jolt of energy," Mercogliano said. "We're coming out with a spark, and we're ready to light a fire."

The Lakers were largely a running team last season, averaging just fewer than eight pass attempts per game. But with the veteran Mercogliano at quarterback, the team figures to put the ball in the air more often this season.

"We're going to open it up with a little more passing," Mercogliano said. "Our receivers have been doing really well. We've got some new kids from Bakersfield that are really good receivers, and I've been working on my arm, so we'll see."

Mercogliano will have some weapons on the outside with sophomore newcomer Stephen Lopez joining the team, along with 6-foot, 3-inch junior receiver Eli Snyder, and junior tight end Dalton Lamberth.

"(Lopez) will be a real big impact on our team this year," Mercogliano said.

A large junior class will lead this year's team, with the squad's three seniors joining the Lakers for their first year of football.

If the Lakers are going to find success back on the 2A level, it will likely start up front with the team's line. Team captain Ethan Everist will lead the push along the trenches. The 6-foot, 5-inch, 268-pound junior will play multiple positions along the offensive and defensive lines, as he leads the two units.

"We've got some kids who are a bit new to it, but I feel like they are able to hit pretty well," Everist said. "They're able to cover gaps and make sure that the plays are on point. It's a better mindset that we can win these games."

Among the lineman Everist said he's been most impressed with early on is sophomore Guthrie Goss.

"In the previous season he was a new kid, sort of a bit skeptical," Everist said. "But this year, he's coming out with bigger hits. I can't wait to see what he has to offer."

Offensively, that unit will look to create some space for junior running back Tony Frankenberg, who returns to the team after not playing in 2016.

"He's come back out this year," Coach Everist said. "He's tough and runs hard."

Defensively, the squad will look emphasize stopping the run with one of the team's top tacklers from last year, junior Joe Pierce returning to help lead the linebackers.

Several of the Lakers' freshman players will also see time on the field this year, with linebacker and tight end Ben Trujillo making an early impression on the coaching staff.

"He's got a great set of hands, and he's going to be a decent linebacker," Everist said. "A lot of these kids coming in played Pop Warner, so they have a little bit of experience, which helps."

The Lakers opened play last weekend with a scrimmage in California against Quincy High. The team will take the field for their first game on Saturday, Aug. 26, when they host Incline Village.

"We're really preparing well this week," Mercogliano said. "Our coaches are doing an awesome job preparing us both defensively and offensively. I'm feeling pretty confident. Our line will do really well, and our receivers have been catching balls."

Kickoff for the rivalry game is scheduled for 1 p.m.

"Saturday's game will be tough," Coach Everist said. "Incline will be prepared for us. They got us 6-0 last year, and that was tough for us. We're excited to play. We're excited more than anything just to get the season started. Whoever it is, we just want to play some football."