Stags eager to silence critics

  • Monday, August 5, 2013

Quarterback Joseph Dress hands off to Josh Sellers during drills on the first day of fall practice. The Stags open the season on Aug. 30 on the road against Stratford. DAN BROWN/INDEPENDENT

The 2013 Berkeley Stags are eager to make their mark on the football field in 2013.
“We have been working hard this summer to get ready for August 30 against Stratford,” said Stags coach Jeff Cruce. “Our primary goal is to field a team with student athletes of good quality character. This isn’t like the old days when selfish players put themselves ahead of the team. We won’t tolerate poor grades or poor character on this team.
“No one puts the individual ahead of the team.”
Cruce will field a roster stocked with 26 seniors, down from a high of 41 seniors at the start of spring practice in May.
“Being of good character is as much a choice as it is to exhibit poor character quality,” said Cruce, who had to whittle the roster down. “We have a good thing going here. These kids have been working hard, and we’re not going to let kids with bad attitudes spoil it for everyone else.”
Cruce said dismissing 15 seniors over the summer was tough, but “you don’t put yourself ahead of your teammates and that’s a concept we’re preaching daily to these kids. The team comes first,” he said.
Cruce is eagerly anticipating the start of the 2013 season and the chance to show Berkeley fans the team they’ve been waiting for.
“We have a very strong group of seniors that are providing quality leadership over our program,” he said. “Guys like Josh Simmons and Branden Williams on defense, Sterling Fiddie and Dylan Baker on offense … these kids have grown up through this program and it’s their time to shine.”
The Stags are coming off a pair of disappointing seasons and are four years removed from the state championship in 2009. In 2011, Cruce’s first year after 18 years of Jerry Brown on the sidelines, Berkeley finished 4-7 in the regular season and was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
In 2012 the Stags finished with a 6-8 mark and were eliminated in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“This is the team I’ve been waiting for,” Cruce said. “I’ve got the players and the coaches that represent the great tradition of Berkeley Stags football. They know ‘character matters.’”
This year the Stags hope to pull it all together and realize the potential Cruce has been waiting for in this, his third season at the helm.  
“We are so much more improved than we were this time last year, more improved than the end of last season even,” Cruce said. “We have an outstanding core of seniors, many with three years varsity experience. These kids have matured and are experienced. We are big upfront and big and fast on defense. We have a solid quarterback in Joseph Dress under center.
“We expect good things this fall.”
The Stags open the 2013 season on Aug. 30 on the road against Stratford.
Berkeley will induct its 2013 Athletic Hall of Fame Class during halftime of its home opener on Sept. 6 against Summerville.

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