I visited the Cascade Bruins football practice on Friday evening. Here’s my report:
After going 0-10 last season, the Cascade Bruins football team is looking to turn a new leaf this season. Head coach Nick Clovsky said he’s been encouraged by a higher turnout, including a few upperclassmen th
at returned to the program and an increase in the number of freshmen.
“We’ve got a real strong turnout in our freshmen level that I’m excited about,” said Clovsky. “We had a little over 30 (freshmen) in summer camp, up from 14 last summer.”
Word of camp: Turning the page
Cascade slogged through a tough 2010 campaign. Not only were the Bruins winless, but they had a number of player defections and plenty of injuries. In fact Clovsky didn’t finish the season, forced to miss the final two games after undergoing back surgery. “By the end of the season we were fielding the JV team from the summer,” Clovsky said.
But Clovsky said he’s been impressed by the dedication of the players in practice so far and the leadership of his upperclassmen, including recently named captains Larry Bruce and Max Kenmir.
“We’ve just got to move forward,” Clovsky said. “We’re finding that you have to have a short memory.”
Vibe of camp: Fun
Watching the Bruins practice you’d never think they suffered through a winless season a year ago. From the coaches to the players, there was plenty of laughter, joking and good-natured trash talking going on during and after practice.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. A few times coaches stopped practice and read players the riot act, venting about missed assignments to general lackadaisical attitudes.
Signs of life: Defense
When asked for a strength of his team, Clovsky mentioned the defense. “We worked very hard this offseason on our defense,” Clovsky said.
In the Wesco South Cascade is going to need it. With running backs like Jackson’s Trai Patrick and Mariner’s Keivarae Russell, the Bruins will have their hands full trying to stop two explosive running games.
“We’ll try to do everything within our scheme to try and contain them, but that’s all you can do with those kids,” Clovsky said of Patrick and Russell.
Player spotlight: Larry Bruce
It’s hard for Clovsky to hide his smile when he talks about the junior QB/DB. With an improved arm strength — “He couldn’t throw the ball more than 20 yards last summer,” said Clovsky — and a clean bill of health, Bruce looks like he could be in for a breakout season.
A starter since his freshman season, Bruce missed the first part of last season with a hamstring issue. When he came back he played well but suffered a concussion late in the season and missed the remainder of Cascade’s games.
Clovsky said the Bruins will go as far as Bruce takes them. “He’s a very athletic kid and he’s got the best speed on the field,” said Clovsky. “Everything is really going to center around teams keying on Larry and our ability to get the ball to other people.”
Bruce, who was second-team All-Wesco his freshman and sophomore seasons for his play as a defensive back, said he enjoys playing quarterback but gets a special satisfaction from playing in the defensive backfield.
“I love hitting guys,” Bruce said. “Some guys like to cheap shot me when we’re on offense, so I like to get my revenge a little bit.”
The converted running back compares himself to recent NFL No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton — “I like his swagger,” Bruce said — and understands he’ll be called upon to bring leadership to a young Bruins team. “I feel good about taking that on,” Bruce said of being a leader.