For the R.A. Long Lumberjacks, the football future is looking bright. With a team made up of all new starters and a large amount of underclassmen, head coach Dave McDaniel said he’s looking forward to what the players can do.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it. Our future looks good because of the abundance of young kids. They are going to get to see a lot of playing time this year because we don’t have a lot of seniors or juniors,” McDaniel said.
With a team that went 0-9 last season, the Lumberjacks are looking for a comeback. McDaniel believes that a host of younger players is the key.
“The future looks bright. The biggest thing we’ve got to learn, being so young, is confidence in ourselves to be able to play with the juniors or seniors of other schools. Kids are all built the same; they all have two arms and two legs, and they just have to know that they have got to use their minds a little more,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel is starting his second year coaching for the Jacks, and like every coach, has his sights set on bringing home a few wins this season.
“I think realistically, if we can get Mark Morris or we can get Ridgefield or Woodland, those would be big wins for us. I’ll be happy if we can compete and pull out a win,” McDaniel said.
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The Jacks are starting with a fresh team of starters to try to accomplish this goal. A few of the players McDaniel is relying on are senior Jacob Johnson-Valencia, freshman Josiah Smith and senior Mitchell Berquist, who is playing football for the first time this year.
“A huge bright spot is that we’re going to be starting a bunch of sophomores and juniors and maybe a freshman here and there. That’s really good for the future. That’s what makes you happy as a coach,” McDaniel said.
While McDaniel said his plan is to make sure everybody gets playing time to avoid injury, the main goal this season is growth as a team. He wants the younger guys to lean on the upperclassmen to show them how to play against bigger, older guys.
“This biggest key to our success is the relationships with our teammates. Working together is the biggest thing,” Johnson-Valencia said.
By starting the freshman and sophomores now, the team will have time to mature, so in the next few year the Jacks should have a strong junior-senior led team.
“That’s what makes you happy as a coach. While these other guys are going to be playing down on JV, we’re going to be sitting with sophomore who have a year of experience,” McDaniel said. “And hopefully they come back with a lot of confidence the following year.”