Credit Fernley football coach Chris Ward for knowing what he has on his squad this season and what he doesn’t have.
“We don’t have a lot of real big kids, but we can run pretty well,” Ward said. “In our key positions, we do have quite a bit of speed, kids who can handle the ball, kids that can run after the catch.”
The team’s players also readily admit that they are undersized this year, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. However, neither coach nor athletes said that fazes them.
“Our size dropped off on the line, but big doesn’t mean that you’re good,” Ward said. “On the offensive and defensive line, I think we’re probably going to be on the smaller side of things most of the season, but we’re OK with that.”
Ward said Fernley has never had a true surplus of big bodies, even if it might be a more glaring issue this year than in the past. To compensate, the team runs an option offense, largely out of passing formations.
“We feel we’ve got multiple playmakers, so we’re trying to get the ball in those guys’ hands different ways, either by the ground or through the air,” Ward said. “We want to get the ball to those playmakers.”
In the preseason this year, the team is working to speed up the spread-option attack and take size out of the equation.
Beyond just schemes and formations, though, players said there is a team-wide sense of tenacity that makes up for their stature.
“We’re kind of small in size, but we can still hit,” senior running back Paul Bustamante said. “We have a lot of good kids. We have a couple big kids. Everybody else on our team is mean.”
Additionally, what Fernley lacks in individual size, they make up for through strength of numbers. Ward said turnout for summer conditioning was much improved this offseason. Players who attend at least 90 percent of offseason workouts are deemed team “regulators.” Last year, the team had 70 regulators. This year, there are 91.
“I’m not a big believer in camps,” Ward said. “Spring ball has its benefits, but the one thing we’ve got to do is we’ve got to have our summer commitment. It pays off dividends. It really does.”
Like most area teams, Fernley did not take advantage of the opportunity to start practice early this year, primarily because of the logistic difficulties of changing the established practice schedule. However, Ward said he felt the team was a step ahead after their summer conditioning and could afford to start practice at the traditional time.
“I think the kids are more excited about playing,” Ward said. “I think the kids are more intent. I think they listen better. I think they’re going to give us a better effort. I really do.”