North Tahoe football | Lakers to open season Friday at West Wendover and#8212;-450 miles away | SierraSun.com

North Tahoe football | Lakers to open season Friday at West Wendover and#8212;-450 miles away

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Keith Sheffield/Sierra SunNorth Tahoe junior Matt Grijalva, shown chasing down an ROP ball carrier last season, and the Lakers start league play this Friday at West Wendover, the newest member of the Northern 2A. The school is located near the Utah-Nevada state line, about 450 miles from Tahoe City.
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The Lakers’ 2010 opener is just around the corner. Too bad the location is not.

North Tahoe kicks off its season Friday at the home of the Northern 2A’s newest football member, West Wendover, which nearly straddles the Utah-Nevada state line on Interstate 80, about 450 miles from Tahoe City.

The one good thing about the 6 1/2-hour drive? The Lakers, at least on paper, should contend with the West Wendover Wolverines.

and#8220;I think we’re looking all right,and#8221; said North Tahoe head coach Scott Everist, who’s entering his eighth season leading the Lakers. and#8220;We had a scrimmage on Saturday against Incline and Whittell, and the kids were physical. We got to see where some of our strengths are and some of the things we need to work on as we prepare to go out to Wendover.and#8221;

West Wendover is one of two schools to join the Northern 2A in football this season, moving from the Southern 2A, while Yerington rejoins the Northern 2A in football after competing at the 3A level last year.

With at least 24 players out for the team, the Lakers will take the field with a considerably larger roster than in 2009, when they finished the season with just 14 players. The catch, said Everist, is that the majority of the players on the 2010 squad are underclassmen with little experience at the varsity level.

and#8220;We have a lot of youth now and#8212; only four seniors, so not too much on the experience side,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;But the kids who’ve been out have been working hard and are enthusiastic, and we think they’ll be able to do the job for us.and#8221;

Junior Brendan Arnold, described by Everist as and#8220;a big, tough, physical kidand#8221; with a strong arm, will take snaps at the quarterback position, and senior Cody Lieberman returns as one of the Lakers’ top skill players, replacing the likes of graduated running backs/defensive backs Leroy Valadez and Forrest Wiens.

North Tahoe will need all the senior leadership they can get from Lieberman and company, as the Lakers lost eight veterans from last year’s team to graduation. Stepping in to fill those shoes will be senior center and defensive lineman Brandon Mireles, who has a couple years of varsity experience under his belt, as well as Rigo Gonzalez, a senior lineman, Justin Blend, a senior tight end and linebacker, and Matt Grijalva, a junior fullback and safety/linebacker.

and#8220;A lot of other positions are still open,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;There will be a lot of guys with shared time early on.and#8221;

The Lakers hope to turn around their luck after a tough 2009 campaign, when they finished 0-8. West Wendover could be just the right team to gain confidence against, as the Wolverines are coming off an 0-9 season in which they were shut out four times.

Win or lose, the Lakers will enter the contest and#8212; and every other game until Oct. 28 and#8212; with the same hard-nosed mindset that Everist teaches.

and#8220;We’re definitely still going to be a running team. We’ll probably pass the ball a little bit more than we have, just because we’re going to have a few different schemes. But overall we’ll be a power football team, a possession-type football team,and#8221; Everist said.