North Tahoe football preview | Shorthanded Lakers press on |

North Tahoe football preview | Shorthanded Lakers press on

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Tony Spiker / Sun File photoNorth Tahoe players celebrate a close win at home against Whittell last year. This yearand#8217;s squad again is struggling with numbers, with only 18 players total.

Student-athletes who choose to play football at North Tahoe High School have no visions of grandeur as they sweat through two-a-days in the heat of August. They have no false hopes of hoisting a state championship trophy over their heads as a results of their hard work, or boasting about their undefeated season in late November.

North Tahoe football players and#8212; all 18 of them and#8212; play for the love of the game. And they play to keep a tradition alive.

and#8220;The thin blue line continues, as I call it,and#8221; ninth-year head coach Scott Everist said of his Lakers squad. and#8220;They understand that, and they don’t want to let it die. It takes a truckload of courage to do what they’re doing right now.and#8221;

The Lakers have fallen on hard times of late, with a dwindling school enrollment that has cut into the number of willing, able-bodied athletes to fill out a football roster. Everist is lucky to get 20 players to start a season.

This year the number is 18, which quickly shrank to 15 after losing three of their top players to injury early in their season opener, including senior quarterback and linebacker Brendon Arnold, junior offensive lineman and linebacker Baird Bishop, who also kicks, and senior receiver Connor Altick.

That left the Lakers with sophomore backup QB Omar Vargas and#8212; who actually filled in nicely for Arnold, Everist said and#8212; and four or five freshmen rotating in at the vacant positions.

and#8220;Some of them were stepping up and doing a really nice job, and others are just not ready yet,and#8221; said Everist, whose team lost the game, 54-13, but trailed only 18-7 at the half.

and#8220;We’ve got some good guys. But they play literally every single play of the game, and it’s tough,and#8221; Everist continued. and#8220;So we’ve been working hard and conditioning the kids harder than we ever have before, and they haven’t complained and aren’t whining. So it’s still a pleasure to do because the kids are making it right.and#8221;

While the shorthanded Lakers know they are not likely to threaten the perennial powers of the Northern 2A, such as defending state champ Pershing County, they can compete and#8212; and at a relatively high level when all their athletes are on the field.

Everist said Arnold, a big kid, at 6-3 and 225 pounds, with a strong arm, was moving the Lakers down the field efficiently against West Wendover before injuring his knee, which will sideline him for two games.

and#8220;We’re definitely excited about him,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;He was starting to make good decisions and things like that. So we’re definitely hurt with him being out.and#8221;

With Arnold’s size and arm, combined with a number of quality players at the skill positions, Everist expects the Lakers to feature a strong aerial attack. Seniors Oakley Keeler and Mike Paschall have become fine receivers, the coach said, in addition to defensive backs, while Altick has shown great ability at the position in his first year out for the team.

and#8220;We’re a really good passing team this year. Our offensive line pass blocks really well, and our kids are starting to run better routes and starting to have a better grasp of the offense. So that’s exciting,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;We’re putting the ball up in the air quite a bit. Our defense is coming along, too. Obviously we gave up a lot of points against West Wendover, but we’ll get there.and#8221;

Other top returners include juniors Justin and#8220;Busterand#8221; Fenley at linebacker and Colin Spencer on the lines, as well as running backs Chris Hoffmann and Brandon Hayokawa.

and#8220;We’re definitely working our tales off. I haven’t had a team with good of an attitude for a long time,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;They’ve been a pleasure to coach so far. They’re eager to learn. We’re just kind of behind the eight ball with our numbers and a few injuries right now.

and#8220;But I hope we make it. A couple more injuries and what do you do?and#8221;

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