An experienced, talented group of players will take the field for the Beatty High School football team this season, which opens against Trona, California, on Friday night at home
“We’ve played Trona consistently for the past few years in basketball, baseball, volleyball,” Beatty coach and athletic director Leo Verzilli said. “This is our first time playing them in football.”
Many teams will be playing their third or even fourth game by the time the Hornets take the field.
“We just don’t get started early enough, so we can’t really play,” Verzilli said. “If we tried to schedule anything earlier, it would be disastrous. We really don’t start until the first day of school.”
The Hornets have several reasons for optimism, starting with experience. The Hornets did not have a single senior last year, when they went 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Class 1A Southern League. There is also some depth.
“We have 24 players, more than I thought,” Verzilli said. “We didn’t have a senior class, so we didn’t lose anything.”
Three-year starter Jacob Henry is back at quarterback. The Hornets didn’t throw much, but Henry was very efficient, completing 30 of 38 passes for 402 yards and eight touchdowns against one interception.
“He knows the offense as well as I do,” Verzilli said of Henry. “He corrects me sometimes. He’s a smart kid, other kids listen to him because he knows what he’s talking about. He’s not boisterous or loud, he just does everything he’s supposed to do. He’s a great leader for our team.”
Henry also was Beatty’s third-leading rusher, averaging almost six yards per carry while gaining 257 yards and scoring five touchdowns.
“He’s not afraid to run,” Verzilli said. “In fact, I have to pull the reins back on him. He wants to run, he wants to lead block, he wants to play defense.”
Henry has a couple of speedy backs to hand off to, as Fabian Perez led the team with 559 rushing yards and nine touchdowns while Yadir Rodriguez led the Hornets with an average of 8.36 yards per carry.
“I’d pay money to watch those kids run,” Verzilli said.
Opening holes for those quick backs is solid line featuring Jimmy Quirk at center, Jose Moreno at right guard, Max Taylor at right end, Juan Lopez at left guard and Gio Maldonado at left end.
“We’re a nice size,” Verzilli said. “For what we’re doing, we need to be big enough but we also need to be mobile. We have some pretty athletic linemen.”
Verzilli said his team worked out the kinks that cropped up in a preseason scrimmage against Tonopah, when missed assignments made the Hornets look like a team that had just started practice which, of course, they basically had.
“We’ve got that ironed out,” Verzilli said. “It’s just repetition, it’s getting those kids to talk to each other. If you know something’s going on, tell somebody quickly. Don’t keep secrets.
“Our pass defense has gotten better. We really put time in on our defense, and it’s much better.”
The roster of 24 means that, while most Hornets will play both ways, Verzilli will have the flexibility to get players some rest.
So an experienced, talented group of Hornets finally will play a game when the Tornadoes come to town Friday night. Trona is a quality program, off to a 2-1 start after going 10-0 in the regular season last year, outscoring opponents 579-60 before a season-ending 28-0 playoff loss to Fresno Christian. In fact, Trona has won 10 games or more in each of the past three seasons.
But the Hornets are eager to get started.
“These kids are ready to go,” Verzilli said.
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