Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Del Norte heads to Jamboree feeling good about progress

With its season opener eight days away, the Del Norte High School football team will have one last chance to face live, unpredictable competition.

The Warriors are traveling to the McKinleyville Jamboree at McKinleyville High School on Friday at 5 p.m. All members of the Big 5 League - McKinleyville, Arcata, Fortuna, Eureka and Del Norte - will bring their varsity teams.

Offensive and defensive units will split up and compete against one another for either 10 minutes or a set number of plays.

The benefits are manifold. Players see live competition. Coaches enjoy the advance scouting as well as the opportunity to test their players in a crucible.

"We need to get to the point where we can make zero mistakes," senior lineman Lane Reichlin said. "If everyone on the team tries (at the Jamboree), we will do great."

After a rough first week of practice, Warriors players have said that improvement compared to the same period last season has been notable, starting at fundamental levels.

"This is definitely more of a team than a bunch of players last year," Reichlin said. "There were a bunch of individuals (on last year's squad). Last year we didn't put in the effort in the weight room."

Missteps and miscues notwithstanding, the returning players feel as though they're on the same page in practice.

"I like how loud we are on defense," senior lineman Tyler Nelson said. "On the offensive line, we communicate a lot."

Del Norte's best attribute may be its athleticism at the skill positions, none of which is expected to have a senior starter. Head coach Ray Rook and offensive coordinator Chris White intend to give defenses multiple looks in a run-oriented scheme, along the lines of the University of Oregon and West Virginia University football teams.

Defensively, longtime coordinator Fritz Baldwin's 3-5-3 scheme (three down linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs) has been quickly absorbed by his players.

"The defense has been solid since the beginning," Reichlin said. "The offense is coming together. Every day it's a little better, a little better."

Coaches and players alike hope both units congeal well enough to offset Del Norte's biggest weakness.

"We're not the biggest team," junior wide receiver/defense back Nathan Porter said. "We've got to fly to the ball."

And with it.

Reach Robert Husseman