Tigers stocked with experience for ‘Year 1B’
Technically, the Green Forest Tigers are entering Year 2 of Greg Tibbitt’s tenure as their head coach, but Tibbitt says another description might be more accurate.
“I’m not so sure that this won’t be like Year 1B,” Tibbitt said recently, referring to the unusual circumstances the Tigers faced in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green Forest had to cancel preseason practice for nearly two weeks last August after an assistant coach tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and COVID-19 protocols affected the Tigers all season long as players were forced to sit out at various times. In fact, Tibbitt said, the Tigers never had a full roster for any single game.
“We had 31 kids on the football team and never dressed 31 because of COVID,” he said.
Green Forest finished 1-11, but showed significant improvement late in the season. The Tigers defeated Berryville 18-12 in the annual Carroll County Super Bowl to close out the regular season, then opted in to the Class 4A state playoffs and lost by just four points at Bald Knob in their first postseason game since 2014.
While 2020 was a challenge on the field and off, 2021 has been much different. The Tigers have already participated in 7-on-7 competitions at Alma and Greenbrier as they work to improve their executive of Tibbitt’s Spread offense.
“We saw some good competition, got a lot of experience for our kids and a young quarterback,” he said.
As Tibbitt alluded to, the Tigers will have a new quarterback this fall. Although he hasn’t officially named a starter, Tibbitt said junior Isaiah Fraga has gotten most of the snaps in practice, with senior Logan Underdown also in the mix.
Green Forest’s quarterback will have the benefit of operating behind an experienced offensive line, as the Tigers return all of their starters up front. All the receivers are back as well, with the exception of now-graduated Adrian Serna.
Junior Izaak Merida will be counted on to help replace Serna, Tibbitt said.
“He’s going to step in where Adrian was and be pretty versatile,” Tibbitt said. “He’ll be in the backfield some and he’ll be in the slot some, and we’ll do a couple of different things with him.”
Ten starters return on defense, including linebacker Bryan Soto and Ryan Bruegel. Bruegel was pressed into service as a running back last season against Berryville and responded with 22 yards on five carries — including the game-winning touchdown run.
Tibbitt is excited about the upcoming season.
“We’ve got a good group of seniors,” he said. “We’ve added a few players in the offseason. We’ve had two kids come back that haven’t played since junior high. They were big on the junior high team a couple of years ago. So that’ll be good as well.”
Mostly, though, Tibbitt sounded overjoyed with a return to a normal offseason routine.
“We’ve already gone to two 7-on-7s,” he said. “We’re going to participate in the Southwest Elite over at Shiloh, big 7-on-7 they do over there. Just getting to throw the football around a little bit is helping us right now.”
Green Forest will open the 2021 regular season Sept. 3, traveling to Pottsville.