YERINGTON - Once again, Yerington faces an uphill slog this season. But from now and until the Lions drop to the Northern 2A, if that ever happens, the town of Yerington can be sure of one thing.
Second-year coach Cody Neville cares. About the kids. How the team competes. How they handle defeat. How a kid responds after being knocked down. Whatever it is, Neville cares.
Even about the program's future and it's possible successes. Yes, even at Yerington, a school that competes with some schools that are nearly three times its size.
And in a league, the Northern 3A, that is unforgiving. And at a school that went 1-8 last season and hasn't made the playoffs since 1997, which is a streak that doesn't appear will get snapped this season.
That's something a community can be proud of.
"As a coach, there's no bigger accomplishment than stepping into a program that's an underdog and making something happen," Neville said. "That's how all the storybooks are written. So to me, it's a great challenge."
But no matter how determined Neville is to turn things around, he can't mass produce football bodies. And that might end up being the most telling aspect of the Lions 2001 season.
Of the 22 players on the varsity roster, which is three fewer than last year, only five weigh more than 180 pounds. And only four players' heads top 6-feet.
"Obviously our biggest weakness right now is the size of our line," Neville said. "It's going to be very difficult to compete in this league (with the size of our line). We're not going to win any games by powering it. It's just impossible."
Neville, however, always sees the brighter side.
"But, we're going to be a lot quicker, so we're doing something this year that we didn't last year and that's technique," Neville said. "We don't have any 300-plus guys out there but we do have some quick players. And the only way that we're going to defeat the guy across from is by technique. And that's what we're working on right now.
Yerington returns only has seven returnees rom last year's team, including quarterback Phil Wilson, who missed a few preseason practices because of an ankle injury. Gone is running back Josh Allen, a four-year varsity starter, who rushed for over 1,700 yards the past two seasons.
Two backs will be looked upon to make up for Allen's production-Randy Shumate and Doug Paine. Paine, a two-way starter a year ago, busted out for an 85-yard touchdown run last season against Truckee. And Shumate posesses break away speed. So there's potential.
"Doug has done some good things for us while getting expereince last year and Randy is a legitimate break out runner," Neville said. "The threat of his speed and if other teams can respect his speed, could really open things for us."
Defensively, Yerington will led by Josh Farler (6-foot, 225 pounds), who's also Lions' best offensive lineman. Linebacker Zach Howell (6-foot, 185 pounds) and Josh Fitzgerald (5-foot-7, 150 pounds) both should have good years.
And although Wilson is the current front runner, Neville says the quarterback position is a three-man race, which Neville welcomes.
"The quarterback position is a beautiful thing this year," Neville said. "We've got three kids that if any of them had to step in there, we probably wouldn't miss a step. And that's a pretty good feeling to have when you're three-deep at the quarterback spot."
But if Wilson ends up starting Aug. 31 against Incline, he doesn't seem to mind that he'll be protected by a smaller line.
"We're little, so maybe we can get out to our blocking areas a little quicker, Wilson said. "I think it (the smaller line) could help us. I just want to come out as a team and show everybody that we can play. We may be small and we may not win every game or win that many games at all, but as long as we come out and give the other team a challenge and make them respect us, I'll be happy."
2001 Lions Schedule
Aug. 31-vs. Incline, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 7-@ Fernley, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 14-vs. Manogue, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 21-vs. R.O.P, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 28-@ Lowry, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 5-vs. No. Tahoe, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 12-vs. Truckee, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 19-@ Spring Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 2-@ Dayton, 7:30 p.m.
2000 Record: 1-8 overall, 0-8 Northern 3A
Varsity players lost: 18
Key players: Phil Wilson, QB, Randy Shumate, WR/DB, Doug Paine, RB/LB, Josh Farler OL./DL, Josh Fitzgerald FB/LB; Key losses: Josh Allen, Tom Sceirine, Brandyn Feole, Mike Pinkerton, Zach Roots,