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2011 SPORTS PREVIEW: Beavers have to rebuild, will work hard to defend state title
FALLS CITY -- When members of the Falls City Beaver football team reported to two-a-days this year, there was certainly a different feeling in the air.
“I told my players we couldn’t ignore the giant elephant in the room,” Head Coach Mark Kirchhoff said with a chuckle. “We had to talk about it.”
Kirchhoff said winning the state title last year was very special, and he was extremely proud to have been a part of that, but he understands this is a different season, and he has a different group of players.
“We aren’t really doing anything different, in terms of how we are preparing for the season,” Kirchhoff said. “We haven’t really changed our approach.
“I’m not sure if the kids feel pressure, but it is different to come back in as the defending state champs,” he added.
Kirchhoff said someone suggested to him that as the defending state champs, the team now has a target on its back. The Beaver coach agrees with the target, but said it isn’t anything new.
“You know, our program has been so successful, that I feel that way every year,” he said. “Whether it’s the teams in our district, or the other guys we play, they are always looking for ways to take us down.”
The Battling Beavers graduated a large portion of their state championship team, but will return 14 lettermen, many of whom have good varsity experience.
“We’ve got three starters back on each side of the ball, but we have several guys with some good experience coming back, too,” Kirchhoff said.
He went on to say that the biggest change for the Beavers this year is that many of the guys returning are finding themselves in different positions from where they played last year.
“Cameron [Soto] is really the only one back in the same spot,” Kirchhoff said, referring to his junior quarterback.
Kirchhoff sees that lack of position-specific experience as a challenge, but said simply, “We will get better and better.”
“A school our size is always going to have some growing pangs, but it’s a process,” Kirchhoff said. “We will work through it. We always do. We will do everything to have the best possible team we can.”
When pressed a little further about the changes, Kirchhoff said the Beavers are always making changes throughout the season as needed.
“We were still making changes into the district schedule last season,” he said. “We were working mainly out of a zone defense and some of the guys said they felt more comfortable sticking with a man coverage -- so we switched to a man-coverage defense.
“We know we just have to take it one day at a time, and we will get better,” he said. “It’s like a bit of the fog lifts with every step you take.”
So far, Kirchhoff has been pleased with his team’s efforts and performance. He said he and the other coaches are watching filming and taking every opportunity to teach the kids, and that is the approach that has brought success to Falls City in the past.
In terms of team strengths, Kirchhoff said the Beavers are going to have good overall speed. He is pleased to have his quarterback returning, and expressed his pleasure in how much Soto has progressed.
“He does a lot for us,” Kirchhoff said. “He will be a big key for us, and will allow us to be a little more wide open. And we have some kids who can hurt opponents with some big plays.”
Defensively, the Beavers’ speed will be to their advantage, and Kirchhoff is just looking for the right schemes to help them be successful.
“I just have to remind myself and my coaches that we have to remain patient,” he added. “And how successful we are will really be determined by how much better we get from week to week.”
So are the Beavers ready for their title defense? Time will tell, but there aren’t many who would bet against the team from Falls City.
“We’re excited about the season, and about being back on the field,” Kirchhoff said. “We are going to give it our best.”
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