Greenwave football in strong position to ‘win it all’ this season
The numbers are down for Brooke Hill’s varsity football team this year but the junior varsity and freshman teams are healthy; however, Hill feels his team is in strong position to win a league title this year and return to the state championship for the first time since winning it all three years ago.
Fallon entertains Spring Creek tonight (Aug. 24) at 7 p.m. at the Edward Arciniega Athletic Complex.
Hill, assisted by Lalo Otuafi, Trevor de Braga, Tom McCormick, Charlie Heck, Brian Itskin, Brandon Sanders and Riley Horn, caught up with the LVN before Friday night’s season opener against Spring Creek, which eliminated Fallon in the playoffs last year.
LVN: With this year’s team, everyone’s healthy but the numbers are down. With less than 30 players, how much does last year’s experience help with the lack in depth?
HILL: That’s a huge part. We return the vast majority of both sides of the ball. Having that experience is big. That happened with our run at the state title. It allows you to make big adjustments during the games. They’ve got lots of time playing. You may be afraid to make adjustments when kids are getting started and can’t make those adjustments on the fly. But we did that Friday night at the scrimmage and nice to see.
LVN: Although the numbers are down on varsity, the J.V. team is healthy after folding last year. You have Ted Ott leading the team along with Mike Rizzario and Chris Delgado, as well as Brad Barton, Warren Wood and Braxton Davis coaching the freshman team. What’s your take on the program’s shape this year?
HILL: We have 27 on varsity but 33, 34 on JV and over 30 on freshman. We had to fold that JV team last year. We feel like we have 27 kids who can contribute, though. We are pleased. We’re pleased with our numbers on the JV. It worries me in the fact you like more numbers but it’s the thing going around in football because people are not choosing to play. Everyone’s in the same boat but that’s 3A football.
LVN: A couple seniors – Sean McCormick and Ben Dooley – will be playing at the Division I level next fall. You’ve coached several Division I players but have you had two in one season?
HILL: As long as I’ve been here, I’ve not had two D1 kids on our team. But we also have some juniors who are really good, too, and getting some attention next year. We’ve been lucky enough to have some great athletes and families in Fallon. From the Maugas to the de Bragas – I’m probably leaving kids out – but to Ben Dooley and the McCormicks, we have some good families and hard-working kids. It’s good for our program. A lot of it is on them (for getting that far).
LVN: The offense returns its biggest playmakers with Elijah Jackson, Sean and Tommy McCormick, Reid Clyburn and Brock Richardson, to name a few. What do you expect from this year’s offense? Will they be even more explosive and score a lot of points?
HILL: We return almost entire starting line from last year with Ben Dooley, a Division I kid, at left tackle. Ben Otuafi is coming back for his third season as a junior at left guard. Gabe Hardy is a senior and at center, and Nick Delgado is a senior and at right guard. Thomas Steele is a junior and at right tackle. He’s just a really solid athlete, great kid too. We feel like our O-line is going to be one of the, if not, best O-lines we have ever had. We feel pretty strong on the offensive side of the ball. There’s a lot of experience and lot of production.
LVN: Last year’s senior class affected more on the defense in terms of having to replace players. Who has stepped up so far in practice to help on defense?
HILL: I like our linebacker corps. We return three of the four starters from last year. Branden Larsen (inside, strong), Hardy (outside, weak), Tommy McCormick (inside, weak) and Bryce Larsen (outside, strong).It’s the best linebacker corps. since the state championship team. We’re younger in the secondary. We have two juniors starting at corner. Brock will play some corner for us on the defensive side and Sean is in the safety position. Sean and Branden are the leaders of that defense.
LVN: Your team was able to get some contact in against Lassen in last week’s scrimmage. How did that go?
HILL: We played pretty well. It’s early and that’s why you scrimmage. The intensity was there. The execution and focus were there. We need to work on our tackling, which is what we have to do early in the year. The kids executed very well.
LVN: What else stood out for you against Lassen?
HILL: We had a few drops but that was kind of the whole receiving corps as a whole. They blocked well. They just have to keep working and keep trying to perfect their craft for what they’re doing. We know Sean (McCormick) and Brock (Richardson) are the home run hitters for us. Tommy (McCormick) has developed into a nice piece for us too.
LVN: What did you need to work on besides tackling?
HILL: Obviously, there are things to work on (penalties). The other thing about this team is they have a tremendous work ethic. They want to get better. We’re going to be able to clean up some things. We had some misplays in coverage and need to do better tacking in the second level. They’re young. Both of those corners were brought up from the folded JV team. They’ve got some experience. They’re going to get better for us. We’re going to be solid.
LVN: Your starting quarterback, Elijah Jackson, went down early last year and he was only a sophomore. He had a good basketball season last winter but how’s he looking on the field?
HILL: He’s had a full basketball season so he’s fine. He’s good now. He has a better grasp in what he’s doing offensively. He showed that in the Boise State camp (this summer). He’s got good poise, he’s mature and he understands. He understands what he’s trying to do. He’s such a dynamic athlete and puts a lot of pressure on the defenses.
LVN: Who can we look out for on special teams?
HILL: Tristan Rodarte (senior) returns and will punt. Brock and Sean will return punts. We have a few guys who can do it. David Poll will be kicking off. He’s a sophomore who we brought up. Trey Rooks (senior) is back. Brock, Sean, Tommy and Reid will return kickoffs.
LVN: Aside from winning the state championship, what do you want this team to accomplish this year?
HILL: We want to get better every time we’re out there. We have a shot to do some special things. It’s just understanding that championship mentality. This is probably the most talented team we have ever had, and that includes the state championship. If there’s a difference, that team had 45 guys. In terms of raw talent, this is a talented team. If we develop that and we’re on a good start, we’ll be there at the end.
LVN: You open with Spring Creek, which knocked Fallon out of the playoffs last year. Then you have Fernley followed by Truckee – all three went to the postseason. What do you make of the schedule?
HILL: You have to play them at some point. We have one of the toughest schedules to begin the season. We open with Spring Creek, who’s been the best team in the last couple of years, and we follow with Fernley, which was the league champ last year. It’s always a tough game because of the rivalry. Then we follow with Truckee, which is picked right there with us (to win the league. The whole league is going to be tough, as always.
LVN: Which game do you look forward to the most?
HILL: The next one. Honestly, we build up to our guys that the most important game is the next one. We don’t shy or move away from that. We keep that mentality because it keeps us grounded.