By Tom Rohrer
The curve of improvement continued last season as well, as the Beavers went 10-12 and saw their season end in a playoff loss to perennial power Toledo High School.
Now, the Beavers have come full circle, thanks in large part to a close-knit and talented senior class, and the patient coach who brought about the winning change. On Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Beavers clinched the 1A Evergreen League title by defeating Forks High School 46-36 at home.
That 1-16 season was the first for Beavers head coach Rod Enos, who previously served as an assistant coach at Forks High, his alma mater. To see the program, and the athletes involved, come full circle has been as rewarding as any victory.
“The atmosphere at home games is incredible. The gym is packed and the kids get to play in a great environment,” Enos said before a Beaver’s practice this week. “And seeing the kids walk around the school, with their heads held proud and tall, that’s the best thing you can ask for as a coach.”
Not considered to be amongst the biggest teams in their conference, the Beavers have won through their terrific athleticism and ability to come out on top during any type of game, be it a shootout or defensive struggle. By implementing a full-court, man-to-man press, the Beavers can speed the game up and allow their high level athletes to improvise and put themselves in a strong position to be successful.
“I feel like we’re great when we have a lot of energy and put pressure on the other team,” said senior captain Devante Harris. “We feed off those turnovers and make it difficult for them to score.”
This style of play requires the team to play as a group, not as individuals, and that chemistry has been a big reason for their success.
“I’d say the biggest difference this year from years past is our chemistry,” said senior forward Ben Peterson. “No one cares who gets the points or whatever. We just want to win, and help each other out and we’ve done that.”
“Not only do they do a great job playing together, but you can see they enjoy it as well,” Enos said. “Without that unity, we wouldn’t be as successful.”
Those familiar bonds between the Beaver players have been forged through years of competition together, not just on the basketball court, but on the gridiron and baseball diamond as well.
“We know each other so well and we have that trust built up,” said senior Dustin Hammond. “I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve had games together in any sports. But obviously, when you compete with people a lot over time, you learn to play better together and just have everyone’s back.”
Harris, Peterson, and Hammond are all three sport athletes, and the toughness required to be successful in football has come to this physical Beavers team.
“Definitely, that hard-working mentality carries over,” Peterson said.
“You feel like you can push through anything with that football mind set and it helps when you know almost everyone has had those experiences,” Hammond said.
Along with the trust they have with their teammates, the team also strikes a great relationship with their coach.
“We know he’s there for us and will help us any way he can,” Hammond said.
“I feel like we can talk to him about anything, whether it’s about basketball or school,” Harris said.
Harris and Peterson were both part of that 1-16 team as freshmen on the varsity team, and those losing experiences have helped them learn how to win.
“If they hadn’t gone through that, something as tough as losing that many games, I’m not sure we’d be having this same conversation,” Enos said. “They saw a lot and really became motivated to put in the extra work that is required to win. Losing many times can lead to winning and for these guys to see their hard work pay-off is huge.”
The players and coach are also happy they’ve had a positive impact on the community.
“To get the support we receive now is huge and it’s really special to be a part of,” Peterson said. “We grew up playing middle school sports here together and really have always thought we would be successful in every sport we’ve played. Playing in packed home games with lots of support is so much fun, and I know we can’t get enough of that.”
“When I first started out, the program just wasn’t as appealing to the fans and not just because of losing,” Enos said. “But as we began playing the game the right way, with lots of effort and at the same time sportsmanship, we received more support. And now, the winning is catching up with all of that, so it’s a special group and town to be a part of.”