SOUTH BEND — The last two football seasons have been tough for South Bend, which has been trying to rebuild and step back up into the Pacific 2B League fray.
For 2014, it’ll feel like the Indians are perpetually rebuilding with an undersized roster that must take on the biggest and newest teams in the league.
“I didn’t think it would be possible to be young and inexperienced again, but we are,” South Bend head coach Tom Sanchez said. “A lot of these (returning) kids played last year, so they have some experience. We don’t have the physical presence, however, offensively or defensively. Our (lack of) size is an issue.”
South Bend opens the season on Friday, Sept. 5 at home against Rainier, one of several new Class 2B teams moving into the Pacific League this season.
The Tribe (0-5, 0-8) has gone through two consecutive winless regular-season campaigns, but will return a nucleus of experienced players.
Junior running back Ryan Overstake will anchor the offensive backfield, with senior Austin Lewis and sophomore Jordan Dockter in competition to take over at quarterback. Both Lewis and Dockter are able to take over at split end or running back on offense if not behind center.
Senior offensive/defensive lineman Marco Perales is the most experienced lineman returning for South Bend.
Two players — one a transfer and another coming off the injury list — will also help the Tribe. Junior running back Kobe Salas and sophomore running back A.J. Sanchez will both provide plenty of speed on both sides of the ball.
Salas, a transfer from Cascade-Leavenworth, hasn’t been cleared to play, while Sanchez lost his freshman year due to injury.
Coach Sanchez is happy with the experience he has returning. However, with just 22 players, depth and experience is still an issue, as well as size.
“We’re not going to overpower anyone,” Sanchez said. “We just have to be tough and fast. Like everyone else, we’re an injury away from going into panic mode. We have to stay healthy and develop a couple of linemen. If we do that, we’ll be all right.”
With several new schools in the league and the departure of one rival, South Bend will have a few new challenges. Rainier, as well as Ilwaco, are moving down from the Class 1A ranks, while Tacoma Baptist and Life Christian are sliding over from District III.
“Right now, you look at North Beach and its game will be to get behind their big offensive line,” Sanchez said. “Raymond has always been physical and fast. Ilwaco will have some size and numbers and Rainier, they’re an X factor. There’s a lot of unknowns, more so than in any other year I can think of.
“North Beach and Raymond are the clear favorites in some order,” Sanchez added. “After that, I’d guess Rainier, then Life Christian. From there, throw the rest of us into a hat. On paper, the games not involving North Beach and Reaymond are, to a certain degree, winnable. We do, however, have a ways to go. We do think we can compete with everyone.”
Assisting Sanchez again this season are Shane Byington, Shawn Friese, Rich Sanchez, Chuck Spoor and Todd Strozyk.