Its spring practice period officially in the books, the Del Norte High football team has set up camp in Gold Beach, Ore.
Eighty Warriors varsity and junior varsity players made the trek up to the Gold Beach Football Team Camp for five days of practice, instruction and competitive opportunity.
Sixteen football teams from Oregon and California are participating in the 2013 Gold Beach Camp, divided into two pools of eight. Del Norte is part of the black pool, with California high schools Benicia High and Lassen High (Susanville) and Oregon high schools North Salem, South Medford, Bend, Summit (also of Bend) and Thurston (Springfield).
McKinleyville High is also participating in the Gold Beach Camp, in the gold pool.
The black pool is deeper and more talented than the gold pool, where the Warriors were originally slated. Offered the chance to move into the black pool by the camp organizers, Del Norte head coach Ray Rook didn't hesitate.
"I told the coaches first, and they were like, 'Heck yeah, that's what we're about,'" Rook said Thursday. "I told (the kids), and they just lit up."
South Medford, Thurston and North Salem are Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A schools - the highest classification in Oregon - and Summit and Bend High are Class 5A schools.
Lassen is a California Interscholastic Federation Northern Section Division 2 team, while Benicia advanced to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs last season in Division 3.
Del Norte, which will move from CIF North Coast Section Division 3 to Division 4 this season, is challenging itself at every opportunity following a 2-8 overall season (1-6 Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League) in 2012.
The Warriors were challenged last season with tweaks to the offensive and defensive schemes and an aggressive practice tempo.
"Not one time did I ever hear one complaint," Rook said. "I notice the attitude of kids before and after practice. I listen to whether they're excited about this and that. For the most part, the heart of the team was there."
Spring practice represented a trial by fire for Rook's revamped coaching staff, which includes four new hires and two new coordinators in offensive coordinator Gene Mitchell and defensive coordinator Jeremy Lacy.
"I was as impressed with the coaching staff as the kids because the coaching staff really grew together," Rook said. "It's important for us as a coaching staff to learn how to work together and have continuity in what we were teaching."
The coaches are tantalized by the team's potential - if all its members can remain on the same page. The players and coaches will find out more about themselves this weekend, when they dive head-first into the black pool.
Reach Robert Husseman at firstname.lastname@example.org.