Change is inevitable.
It’s something the Lakeside Blue Ridge High School football program is experiencing in the beautiful White Mountains of northeastern Arizona.
For years the Yellow Jackets were one of the power programs in the state, winning 13 championships under former coach Paul Moro before the “numbers game” eventually caught up when Blue Ridge cancelled their junior varsity season last year due to a lack of players.
After three decades at BRHS, Moro left for the same position at Poston Butte in 2013. Since his departure, the Jackets have had three head coaches, most recently long time assistant Bob London, who is optimistic the Jackets’ program will rise again despite going 2-8 in 2016.
“We’re anticipating an increase in our numbers back towards a more normal for us level,” London said to Sports360AZ.com. “It seems kind of cyclical. It’s been that way my whole career. Some classes are bigger, some classes are smaller. Some are more talented, some less so.”
Part of the problem could be generational as small communities have had problems convincing the millennial era to participate in athletics. London knows once they get the “buy in,” the rest seems to take care of itself.
Blue Ridge started the season 2-1 but have since experienced lopsided losses to Northwest Christian (35-0) and Florence (41-16) as the players continue to navigate through the ups and downs of the early season.
The immediate results on the scoreboard may not be there just yet but the passion for the game is, according to London, who is a well-respected figure leading the program and within the Lakeside community.
“These kids coming up in our small communities,” London explained. “They’re playing football games during the football games. We talk about respecting the game and how much it has to offer.”
Since 2004 Blue Ridge had nine double-digit win seasons before falling on hard times after Moro’s departure.