Joey Brown will return for the Pioneers as a sophomore. Brown saw time at quarterback last season. (Hailey Palmer/Lynden Tribune)

Pioneers went 2-4 in shortened season this past spring

EVERSON – Heading into the upcoming football season, Nooksack Valley head coach Craig Bartl is looking forward to hitting the practice field in shorts and a t-shirt instead of a parka like he did this past winter.

He’s also looking forward to a full season with something to play for. The whole team is. 

Getting the opportunity to play in February and March 2021 was great, but extra motivation is there with a postseason in the cards, Bartl said. 

The Pioneers are looking to improve from their 2-4 record from last season and preparation officially starts with practices finally starting this week. 

“We’re all excited to just get back into it and have that full two weeks to get prepared and be normal,” Bartl said. 

Nooksack Valley opens its season Friday, Sept. 3, with a home game against Sehome. 

Bartl said key players for the Pioneers this season are still to be determined, but he has some ideas and will know once they all take the field.

“Our biggest thing is how do we come together as a team?” he said. “Once we get into full practices after two weeks you can kind of figure out what role each kid is going to be playing.”

A team camp at Squalicum with Blaine and Meridian got the team together this summer, but with basketball season ending in late June, every team from all seasons were trying to get some form of their summer seasons in. Bartl said they communicated with other coaches in trying to not burn players out mentally or physically. 

Getting only a five-month offseason has both its benefits and drawbacks, Bartl said. 

“I do think the kids are tired. We told them the last 10 days we don’t want them lifting, we don’t want them at the school, we don’t want them around anything and to mentally and physically recover from the summer,” he said. “We want them to be fresh in October and November. One week of lifting isn’t going to make a difference. That was our big push. To go be kids for a week and be ready to go mentally and physically for when we start.”

However, a short offseason means spending less time teaching and more so just giving players a refresh of things.

Bartl said he saw that at the team’s camp this summer at Squalicum. 

“You can see those light bulb moments are happening faster than in the past. It doesn’t seem like we really stopped playing football,” he said. “I think that learning curve is definitely shorter and it’s been fun to see that because kids are picking up stuff a lot quicker.”