RENO - The 2003 football season wasn't the best in Galena's short history, but the Grizzlies did make their fourth straight playoff appearance.
Steve Struzyk, the Grizzlies' head coach, believes this year's team is better and deeper, and thus believes a fifth straight trip to the post-season is a good possibility.
"It's what you base every season off of," said Struzyk, whose team went 2-3 in High Desert play and 2-7 overall. "You shoot for making the playoffs every year.
"We have a little more speed than last year and a little more size. That's not taking anything away from last year's team. We had a small senior class and they did everything they could to get into playoffs."
Making the playoffs this year will be a tad tougher with the addition of Bishop Manogue, which after terrorizing teams at the 3A level for so many years, has made the jump to 4A. Besides the Miners, there is Elko, McQueen and Reed that are usually tough.
"It's a very tough league," Struzyk said. "However, I don't see any team going through without a loss this year."
"You can't tell me that they can't compete with us," Struzyk also said about Manogue. "They have one of the best coaches in the area and their kids come from all over the place. It's getting tougher and tougher for us. All the parents, players and alums are all doing a little bit of talking and saying they can do the same thing at the 4A level. I'm going to use that (to get the kids ready). Hopefully we can show them what 4A is all about."
Struzyk, however, does have concerns. His biggest one is at quarterback where newcomers Jordan Arnold and Tony Fritsche, both juniors, are battling it out for the No. 1 job.
"One (Fritche) is a little bigger and stronger," Struzyk said. "He came in from Spanish Springs. Jordan has a leg up because he knows the offense better. Each brings special skills to that position. In 4A football, you need a good backup quarterback."
If Arnold wins the job, Struzyk said that Fritche would start at wide receiver opposite returnee Mitch Houk. Also in the mix are Matt Lipkowitz, Mark Watson-Lahond and Josh Koskie. The tight end spot is a battle between junior Cole Dowdty and senior Avery Webb.
"Mitch and Fritsche are the fastest receivers we have," Struzyk said. "The other guys just have pretty good hands."
At tailback, the Grizzlies have one of the most dangerous players in the league in Ben Fry, who was arguable their top player last season. Expect the 5-foot-7 180-pound Fry to line up in any number of spots this year.
"He pretty much does it all for us," Struzyk said. "We're going to run more from an I-back set to give him a little more vision. We'll use him as much as we can."
Juniors Cody Holland and Ryan Krueger back up Fry, and junior James Morrison and senior A.J. Meadows are battling for the fullback spot.
The offensive front isn't big. In fact, only tackle candidate Bruce Consalvo (6-4, 250) weighs more than 200 pounds. Senior guard Nick Baxter (6-0, 190) and tackle Lucas Sovey (5-10, 195) are the only returnees up front. Junior James Ripson (5-10, 195) is the leader at center, and a pair of 190-pounders junior Casey Ernst and Jake Tibbets, are fighting for the opposite guard spot. Brad Overhouse is battling for playing time.
On defense, the Grizzlies will line up in a 4-4-3 this season, and Struzyk likes the look of his secondary.
Fry and Houk will start at the corners, and Webb will be at safety. Tyler Ewald, the Grizzlies' all-league kicker, and junior Zach Shannon will provide relief. Also in the mix is the Grizzlies' outstanding wrestler Joel Rivadeneyra.
"The secondary looks strong," he said. "We have proven kids back there."
The linebacking corp is solid with Ernst, Fritsche, Derek Waldon and Lipkowitz. Ernst was called up from the JV squad last season.
"Casey is more a plugger type," Struzyk said. "We needed help last year and he really played well and stepped up for us."
Joey Milisich, Dowdty and A.J. Medina provide back-up help.
The defensive front is led by defensive end Chase Houston, who played fullback last year. The 5-11 180-pound Houston will be joined by Tibbetts. Consalvo and Brandon Contreras (5-9, 240) will man the tackle slots.
John Reilly (6-0, 220) and A.J. Clements (6-1, 180) will see action at defensive tackle and defensive end, respectively.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.