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November 24, 2012 at 9:00 PM

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A revival of football on Lopez Island


BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Lopez Seniors Jaise Poole, left and Bill Solomon walk with their teammates to greet opposing team Clallam Bay following the Lobos' 52-16 win. The revival of football on Lopez has brought together the small community that tends to resist change and divide itself between the old island families and the newcomers.

Lopez Island is known for its friendly nature and throwback style. Many visitors and new residents say that you feel like you've gone back in time 50 years when you step foot off the ferry. And they are very protective of that feeling. "I think they come here because they like it the way it is," said Jack Giard, a native Lopezian who used to play six-man football back in the 50's and still lives on the island.

The resistance to change on Lopez has preserved its laid back culture and quirky traditions, but can make it difficult to start anything new. Football on the island was disbanded in the early 60's and over forty years later, a group of community members and parents of Lopez schoolkids wanted to start it up again as an alternative to soccer.

It took several years, but with the right head coach, the right community volunteers and a scoreboard that was driven in from Oklahoma, the football team on Lopez Island is thriving. It may seem small, but it's an important bridge between the old Lopez and the new, a shared tradition that everyone can root for.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Head Coach Larry Berg leads practice after school Wednesday October 17, 2012. Berg worked for many years as a physical education instructor and coach at the prestigious private school Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, but decided to resign. He made the move to the island for a variety of reasons, including a different lifestyle for his family.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Derekk Buffum, left, 17, talks to Hailey Crowe, 15, on the metal folding chairs Lopez High School has set up in lieu of bleachers before their home football game against Clallam Bay in October. The new press box, brought in on a semi-truck earlier this season, sits behind them. The roof and upper deck was just being built by local volunteers and the foundation about to be poured. Buffum is a running back on the football team, sidelined due to knee surgery.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Head Coach Larry Berg talks strategy to a packed locker room, a bit too small for even the smallest football team.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Forrest Roberts, left, and TJ Riggins, right, wait in the hallway of Lopez High, by the trophy case before the game. Their opponents, Clallam Bay, were late to arrive after their ferry was delayed. Game time starts on the island tend to be dictated by the ferry schedule.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Conor Dye, left, and Vinny Kramer put on their helmets before walking on the field for their home game against Clallam Bay.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Dwight Lewis set out to raise money for the football team, and started selling these hats for $100 donations. Lewis said he's raised about $30,000 so far.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Head Coach Larry Berg goes around to each player during stretches to offer encouragement and a handshake before the Lobos' game against Clallam Bay.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Girls from Lopez High cheer on the Lobos while they play Clallam Bay. "Pretty much the whole school" shows up to see the football team play, they said.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Eight-man football tends to be higher scoring and more fast paced than normal 11-man football. Back in the 1950's, the population of the school was much smaller and the Lobos played six-man football against the other island teams, led by coach Miss Doris Jean DeLurme.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

From left, Dwight Lewis, Chase Schober and Derekk Buffum cheer on the offense as they charge towards a touchdown during their game against Clallam Bay. Lewis calls himself the 'motivator' of the team and has raised about $30,000 for the football program, and led the charge in building the new press box.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Coaches and players of the Lopez Island Lobos football team get together in a circle before beginning the second half of their home game against Clallam Bay in October.



BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Brad Smith, center, helps Rick McCoy call plays over the new PA system while Jay Bryant runs the scoreboard in the press box, which Dayvid Rypinski, right, had been helping to put the roof on hours earlier. "We don't have a lot to offer them out here," said Brad Smith, one of the first advocates of reviving football on the island. Smith had two sons disinterested in playing soccer, their other option. "If you get them involved in sports, you're doing that much better at keeping them out of drugs and alcohol." Bryant and his son Anchor were the ones to drive the old scoreboard, seen in the background, in from Oklahoma after his wife Deanna found it on sale.

BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Head Coach Larry Berg walks down the sideline during the game with his arm around assistant coach Aaron Dye.

For more photos, visit the gallery.

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Now THIS is a fantastic story!!!! I hope to see the Lobos as the next Lacrosse-Washtucn... MORE

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