Bears football opens practice



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Senior quarterback Nathan Foster delivers a pass during practice last week for Winnisquam. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 15, 2011
NORTHFIELD While night one of practice resulted in sprinting to escape the driving thunderstorm that made its way overhead, the Winnisquam Regional High School football team stuck to the more conventional conditioning when day two rolled around, as the Bears kicked off their fall season last week with sessions held at Surrette Battery Park.

"We've got about 35 kids right now, which is a pretty good number," said Winnisquam head coach Pat Riberdy. "If we could be in the 35-40 range, I'd be good with that."

The Bears return some key components from last year's 6-3 team, although graduation took six seniors away from last year's squad. Winnisquam will feel the losses in the backfield and along the lines, although a solid junior class that numbers around 15 will hope to make its mark after gaining valuable experience as sophomores.

"I played a lot of young kids last year and we think that's going to be very helpful this year," said Riberdy, whose son Jordan graduated this past spring. "We've got the biggest numbers in our junior class right now and that's looking like the depth of our team so far."

Riberdy had three of those juniors starting by the end of last year, when the Bears barely missed out in qualifying for the postseason. Despite finishing with identical 6-3 records, Newfound was given the fourth and final playoff spot based on its head-to-head victory over Winnisquam. The Bears actually finished higher in the power rankings used by the NHIAA, but the committee decided to change the playoff tiebreaking system early in the regular season to make head-to-head its first criteria.

Winnisquam isn't wondering about last season however, as the team has high hopes for this fall. Starting quarterback Nathan Foster returns, giving the Bears some stability under center. The team has plenty of quickness and should be able to pose problems offensively.

Riberdy said the team's open workouts throughout the summer drew anywhere from five to 20 players on a given night, and he's been pleased with the conditioning in the early going.

"We had some good turnouts during the summer but there's a lot going on for the kids so anytime they were able to make it out was helpful," he explained.

With the program now in its eighth year Riberdy has been there for five stability has the team in a good spot. Long gone are the low numbers from the early years, when the team finished the season with just 18 players during Riberdy's first season.

"I think we had about 43 players at the end of last year," he recalled. "We like being able to have a good number of kids so we can play a full JV schedule. We've got seven games scheduled for the JVs this fall."

Winnisquam, which reached the Division VI championship game in 2009, will get its first taste of game action on Aug. 27, when the Bears travel to Meredith to take part in a preseason jamboree with several schools, hosted by Inter-Lakes. The team then starts the regular season with three straight home games, beginning with the opener on Sept. 3 against defending champion Newport.

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