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High School Football Preview: Brethren Christian ready for 8-man game in 2019

Brethren Christian’s head coach Leon Green jokes with Slater Jones during practice in Huntington Bea
Brethren Christian coach Leon Green, seen joking with Slater Jones on Aug. 10, 2018, returns for his second year in charge of his alma mater.
(Drew A. Kelley)

Brethren Christian High faced a challenge in its return to football last season.

Brand new players, including players that have never played football before, were brought on to play a different game: 8-man football. The road back wasn’t easy.

It took coach Leon Green, a former Brethren Christian player, a while to get his Warriors in rhythm. His players figured it out near the end of last season, finishing 2-6 overall and 1-5 in the Express League, good for sixth place in the seven-team league.

Green came into a situation where everyone, including himself, learned things along the way and adjusted as the season went along.

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“We should be more confident this season,” Green said. “We got the first year off our belt. For some of these kids, they’ve never played the game before. They had no idea what they were doing with X’s and O’s, as well as physically. It was a new thing for everybody because this was my first time coaching 8-man after 13 years of coaching 11-man. There was nobody at the school that previously coached 8-man. A lot of it was new and learning on the fly.”

Luckily for Green, he returns all but one starter.

“If we do our job, there should be nobody that can stop us,” Green said. ”We started off slow [last year] on offense because we couldn’t get out of our own way. By the fourth game on, we were averaging over 21 points a game from that point forward. We just got out of our heads and things started clicking. The way we ended last year, along with [what] we know works and having all our kids back, I see us picking up where we left off.”

One player who isn’t back is Mark Hermansen, one of Brethren Christian’s go-to players on both sides of the ball. He is no longer at the school.

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Despite losing a standout like Hermansen, quarterback Jace Knowles has plenty of target to fill Hermansen’s shoes. Knowles will throw to Noah Peters, Evan Fishbacker and Koby Gilman, who is also a volleyball star.

Having multiple options will give the Warriors a balanced offense this season.

“I feel like I can spread the ball around,” said Knowles, who was a first-team All-Express League basketball player last season. “We have a lot of good talent from Evan, Koby and Noah. They all have their strengths and they can help us in different parts of the field in different situations.”

With Hermansen gone, linebacker Seth Klaasen will look to be the new leader on defense. The defense struggled last season, giving up 40.5 points per game.

“Mark is a big miss and we can tell,” said Klaasen, who led the volleyball team to an Express League title last season. “He lined up next to me at linebacker, but we have to have other leaders step up and be a big hitter like Mark was. Although we lose one player, we have two to three players that can step up to the challenge. Losing your best player opens opportunities for other players.”

While the biggest concern is filling the biggest void, Green has seen enough talent where he can find more than a handful of role players.

Green feels that with no top superstar on the team, opponents won’t focus on one player. Any player can step up on any given day.

“Mark was a game-changer,” Green said. “But I can see the ability of these guys to be able to step up. They just have to be more discipline.”

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With all their starters back, except for one, and a roster of more experienced players after learning the 8-man game toward the end of last season, things look promising for the Warriors in 2019.

“If we don’t improve, I’ll be very surprised,” Green said. “If we are not better from last season, I’ll be extremely shocked.”

BRETHREN CHRISTIAN WARRIORS

CIF Southern Section 8-man Division: 2

Coach: Leon Green (second year)

Staff: Russ Duren (offensive line/defensive line)

2018 season: 2-6, 1-5 in the Express League (sixth place)

Offensive scheme: Balanced

Defensive scheme: Multiple

Returning offensive starters: Seven

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Returning defensive starters: Seven

Returning with honors: None

SCHEDULE

September

6 — vs. San Pedro Rolling Hills Prep at Grace Lutheran School, 3 p.m.

13 — Bye

21 — vs. La Verne Calvary Baptist at La Verne Damien, 7 p.m.

27 — at Wildomar California Lutheran, 7 p.m.

October

3 — at Silverado St. Michael’s Prep*, 3:15 p.m.

10 — at Sage Hill*, 6 p.m.

18 — at. Avalon*, 5 p.m.

26 — vs. Downey Calvary Chapel* at Downey, 7 p.m.

November

1 — vs. La Verne Lutheran* at Clark Field in Long Beach, 7 p.m.

*denotes league game

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