New faces, same goals for Berthoud football

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

It is no secret the 2016 Berthoud High School football team will look vastly different from last year’s with the Spartans losing 18 seniors to graduation. And it is more than just the numbers, the class of 2015 represents what is arguably the most talented and accomplished class in the program’s history; six of the 18 are playing college football and another two are competing collegiately in other sports. Many of the departed seniors had been in starting or major contributing roles for Berthoud since their sophomore seasons.

For the 2016 season, Berthoud is tasked with replacing their starting quarterback, their number one wide receiver, three of their top four running backs, four of their five starting offensive lineman, their best defensive end, two linebackers, their top cornerback, and a starting free safety. The Spartans 2015 second-leading receiver – tight end Cally Castles – moved out of state, and incoming senior Karsten Bump, who was slated to play a big role as a linebacker and tailback, suffered a shoulder injury and will miss the 2016 season.

Yet, despite the exodus of talent and experience – not to mention a schedule that features four teams who are ranked in the preseason state top-10 – Berthoud Head Coach Troy Diffendaffer is adamant that expectations have not changed, and the Spartans goal will be, as it has been in each of Diffendaffer’s three seasons at the helm, to make the state playoffs.

“We’d be remiss if we were ever to say that our goal is not to make the playoffs; it’s the old Herm Edwards ‘you play to win the game’ so the goal is to make the playoffs,” Diffendaffer explained at practice on Aug. 29.

The coach does remain realistic, however.

“It is going to be a challenge for us, and we’ve talked about how we may take our lumps along the way,” Diffendaffer said. “We have to hope that we continue to grow and mature and everyone knows their role on the team. We can’t coach size, other teams are going to be bigger than us, faster than us, but what we can do is make sure we take care of the little things.”

Diffendaffer is optimistic for a couple reasons. Firstly, the team had what he termed “great participation” in offseason camps and conditioning programs.

“A lot of those kids who were there have rose to the top,” Diffendaffer said.

Secondly, the coach believes the legacy left by the departed players will motivate and challenge the incoming players to follow in the now-graduated players’ footsteps.

“We hope that the hard work that those young men put in from when they first stepped on the field will leave that legacy on the younger kids who are stepping up,” Diffendaffer said. “Now these kids know what’s expected of them in how they prepare, in how they practice, in how they carry themselves in the school and in games and stuff like that.”

Does having so many open positions help foster competition and make the team stronger? “I believe it has,” Diffendaffer replied. “It’s the first time in two or three years where we actually have competition at just about every spot. That’s the cool thing about it, the kids know coming in that they have a chance to earn a spot.”

Junior Brock Voth and sophomore Ty Beaman are currently vying for the quarterback job, but it is likely Diffendaffer and his staff opt to use both in various situations. Junior lineman Derek Sandstedt has taken a leadership role on the team and impressed coaches with his offseason work and performance in training camp. Junior receiver and defensive back Wyatt Woodrick and offensive lineman Ben Douglas are a pair of players who enter 2016 having played in all 10 games in 2015, bringing a small measure of varsity experience to a roster otherwise lacking in seasoned players.

The Spartans compete in the reconstituted six-team 3A Tri-Valley Conference that includes 2015 state qualifiers Roosevelt (2015 state runner-up) and Holy Family, as well as Mead, Erie and Frederick. Berthoud’s non-conference schedule includes road games at Denver Lutheran, Centaurus and Fort Morgan, and home tilts with Greeley Central and Thompson Valley.

Berthoud begins the 2016 season at home on Friday, Sept. 2, against 4A Northern League’s Greeley Central. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.