The 2016-17 season was an inconsistent one for the Berkeley High School (BHS) football team. The season started out promisingly for the Yellowjackets, with the team emerging from its first three games with a record of 2-1. The team eventually finished with a 4-6 record, but the season ended on an optimistic note when the team pulled off a 61-51 win in the last game of the season.
The topsy turvy season wasn’t one without controversy, as the Jackets decided to join the movement started by Colin Kaepernick by kneeling during the National Anthem before one of their games. This event and the process in which the team decided to join the movement was captured by VICE News, who aired it on their “VICE News Tonight” segment on HBO.
While the Jackets didn’t end the year with a winning record, their performances left many hopeful that the 2017-18 season could be a successful one for the program. People close to the team think that this year could be special, with senior quarterback Colby Miller saying, “This year is slightly different because we believe we have the tools and assets to go very deep into the playoffs with our physical defense, strong offensive line and talented skill players.” This positive feeling was echoed by head coach “CJ” (Clarence Johnson), who said, “Our goals for this year are getting to the playoffs and finishing with a winning record.”
These goals may seem unrealistic to some, given that the BHS team hasn’t had a winning record since 2011, but CJ explained that “most of the guys have been working all summer… they’ve been working really hard.”
Miller also talked alluded to the hard work of the team when he said: “I believe this team has changed into a winning team. By that I mean not wins and losses but how we approach each practice and rep. We do it with one hundred percent and we handle our business.”
Over the next few months, the team will discover whether this change in attitude and all their hard work will pay off.
This year’s team will have a lot of new faces, with 32 seniors graduating from last year. Coach CJ acknowledged that “We’re young in a lot of places, meaning that we are inexperienced in some areas,” he said. He also added that “There aren’t as many outspoken individuals [this year]. Our team is much more team oriented with a common goal.”
CJ was confident that the team culture he has instilled would be upheld and taught by the older players.
“We use the motto: we before me, and the guys believe in that. In football, as with any other team sport it is very important that the team pulls together,” he said.
But no matter how unified a team is, there are certain problems that can appear that are simply unforeseeable. Last season a large obstacle arose before the season even started, when the Jackets lost star players Jaden Lewis and Miller in preseason.
Miller is now back to full-strength, and said, “Our toughest challenge will be not shooting ourselves in the foot. This means staying healthy, staying eligible, and making the correct decisions on and off the football field.”
Some of the team’s coaching staff changed before the start of this season, and the change seems to have been a successful one.
The team started this year’s season off with an opening win against Santa Rosa, and play their next home game on September 22 against non-conference opponents Heritage. With the backing of the BHS community, coach CJ is hopeful for a successful season, saying, “The boys have been battling hard, playing a game they love, they just need support.”