By Dan Karpiel
Under the sweltering heat and bright sun typical of an August afternoon in Colorado, the Berthoud High football team has been hard at work on the practice field preparing for the upcoming 2011 season. The team is stacked with players and led by coaches who are eager for the season to begin.
“I definitely expect us to over .500 this year and be competing for the playoffs like we know Berthoud football is supposed to be,” said senior quarterback and team captain Zach Ruebesam.
Head Coach Dan McGinn would not predict a win-loss record, as coaches are often loath to do, but said, “We all expect to be much more competitive this year…. we feel like we’re going to be a much better team; we’ve got a real experienced, eager group of seniors who have done a great job leading us through our first week of practice and we expect good things.”
Berthoud made some changes to their offensive and defensive schemes and, unlike last season, will be asking several players to play on both sides of the ball. To stay fresh for the length of the season playing this “iron man football” the team has emphasized extra conditioning work during in their preseason practices.
The Spartans will debut a new-look defense with the rarely-seen 4-2-5 alignment. Berthoud defensive coordinator Troy Diffendaffer mentioned that he traveled down to Fort Worth, Texas to study the 4-2-5 defense employed by Texas Christian University. TCU finished as the second ranked team in the nation in the final Associated Press FBS poll in 2010. Coach Diffendaffer said the trip was helpful in preparing his defense for the 2011 season.
Offensively, the Spartans will be using the “pistol” offense – a hybrid of the more-traditional single-back shotgun offense used at all levels of football – as their base offensive formation.
When asked about the reasoning for making the schematic changes Coach McGinn stated, “The definition of (insanity) you know is if you can’t do something different you can’t expect different results, so that’s what we thought about on both sides of the ball.” McGinn went on to explain, “We’ve toyed with some of the pistol in the past. So now as our base formation we feel like it’s going to give our offense a more symmetrical look and it will be tougher to defend.”
McGinn also said that he and the other coaches have been very pleased with how well the players have adapted to the scheme changes and mentioned the learning curve, especially for the offense, has not been very steep, “we really have a smart group,” he said.
Last season the Spartans were a relatively young and inexperienced team with a lot of sophomores and juniors playing key roles. Those players are now a year older and, with the offseason conditioning and weight training work, expect to be a more-imposing team.
“This summer our coaches focused a lot on our lifting program and we got way more people in there than in the other years that I’ve been here,” said senior tailback Chase Fraser.
Fraser, who was an All-Conference selection as a junior in 2010, explained his focus during the offseason has been centered on improving his blocking skills. “We’re going to be spreading the ball around more and I’ve got to get more involved in blocking, mostly pass blocking for Zach.”
Ruebesam echoed Fraser’s comments regarding the offseason weight training program and mentioned that he and the wide receivers spent time working on pass timing. He expects the extra work will pay dividends this fall.
“There’s a lot of good quarterbacks in this league….and I want to be up at the top with them.” Ruebesam is a natural leader and recognizes that is a critical attribute of any quarterback saying, “If you stick up for these guys, even in school or somewhere else off the field, you know that they’ll block for you and help you all the time on the field.”
Along with Ruebesam, Berthoud’s team captains for 2011 are Brad Novell and linebackers Cory Ellis and Brok Diffendaffer.
The Spartans open the season on Friday night August 25 on the road against Greeley Central. Berthoud then has a bye week over Labor Day weekend and will play their home opener on September 9 against the Sterling Tigers.