By Arwyn Rice
Pilot staff writer
Football is about to begin and it's going to be a dog fight this year.
The 2008 Brookings-Harbor High School Bruins football team is in a competitive league and is expected to face plenty of tough opponents, said Jim Keys, head coach of the Bruins football team.
"It's going to be a dog fight for the top three spots in the league," said Keys.
The Bruins take on Hidden Valley and Del Norte, both perennial powers.
And then there is the unknown. The Bruins play Fortuna Union High School of Fortuna, California. The Bruins and the Fortuna Huskies have never met, a challenge for both teams.
The semi-annual faceoff against Sutherlin will have additional meaning for the Bruins juniors and seniors, as the Bruins lost to Sutherlin in overtime in 2006.
The Bruins return a solid group of starters, including Evan Peterson, Neil Watson, Michael Althof, Dustin Paradis.
"Nick Longo, a junior, has been a standout as a leader," Keys said.
Tyler Lueckfeld is talented enough to see varsity time as a freshman, he said.
The core of the 2008 team formed by players who consistently showed up for camp and morning weight training, said Keys.
Overall, the team is young, still small and inexperienced but loaded with talent, said senior Evan Peterson, 17.
Peterson, a second-year starting running back and linebacker, remembers the excellent 2006 varsity team and thinks the current group could be just as good.
"We have a lot of talent," said Peterson." We just have to learn how to use it. We can be just as good as that team, if not better." Peterson said.
"I think we can do it as long as we practice hard and get everyone to practice," he said.
Peterson plans to make All-League this year.
"I only played defense last year," he said. "I can do better."
Neil Watson, a 16 year old senior tackle sees himself as a motivator.
"I want to get the team excited," he said. "If something goes bad, I want to keep the team up."
"We are so young, so small," said Watson. "Even the numbers are small. We need to come together like brothers."
Watson didn't see the team come together last year but is seeing signs of the kind of brotherhood he's been looking for in the trust the players have for each other, in trusting that the "other guy" is doing his job and not having to worry about it.
"Age isn't everything," he said. "Size isn't everything. It's how bad you want it."
Keys, Peterson and Watson agreed that the key to Bruin success on the gridiron is hard work and keeping the team healthy.
Injuries and illness have been an issue in the pre-season. Six players have spent time on the sidelines due to injuries and a number of players have been out due to the flu.
The Bruins open the season at home against Hidden Valley on Friday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.
Bruins home games include Hidden Valley, Fortuna Union, Douglas, North Bend and Sutherlin high schools.