Photograph by Trinity Graham
It’s been a rocky start to the season for Berkeley High School (BHS) football. The team is 0-6, second to last in Division I, and dead last in the local league standings. But this is no change for BHS, over the past five years they have failed to win more than four games in a season. In that time there have been five unique teams and two different head coaches, but still the same disappointing result. Even with an abundance of athletic talent, the Jackets seem to remain hovering around last place. But this year many have hopes for the program to save face after a slow start.
“I’ve seen the program grow since the summer,” said junior Kenny Varnado. Varnado had to sit out last season, but he’s stepping up to play defensive end, safety, and wide receiver this year. “I think we’re really starting to come together as a team and realize that we’re all we’ve got. The team’s attitude is controlling what we can control. There are a lot of people who should’ve been playing this year but aren’t because of injuries, grades, things like that. We’re just going through adversity that we have to overcome together,” said Varnado.
There was a lot of instability for the Jackets coming into this season. “The program has changed quite a bit this year,” said junior Jake Jandra, who is playing his second year on varsity as a cornerback and wide receiver. “We lost a few coaches and have a different offense. Our team is really frustrated. We had a good offseason but a few things just didn’t go our way.” The transition from the offseason to regular season was a difficult one; it’s hard to start a season off right if your roster and coaching staff are uncertain. The ever-shifting roster has plagued the Jackets in the past too. “In the mere three years I’ve been a part of the Berkeley High football program, I’ve seen the rosters decrease in size year after year,” said Octavio Martin, linebacker and defensive end. With the decrease in roster size, almost every player has had to step up and play multiple positions.
Regardless of their struggles, the team is still optimistic about the rest of the season. The Jackets are also thinking about their ambitions in a broader context. Overcoming adversity on the field represents something more than just a game to these players. “The team’s goal for the future is to set all the young men in this football program up for success in life,” said Varnado. “A lot of the time the coaches talk to us about jobs, keeping our grades up, making sure we’re in every period sitting at the front of those classes, making sure we’re at tutoring … the coaches care about us as people more than football players.”
The Jackets have the right mindset to turn this season around, and be able to achieve their goals for the playoffs. The seniors are focused on incorporating younger players into the program to fuel its future, and everyone is thinking about this season and onwards.They are ready to put in the work to create an achieving program. “Our goal is to put Berkeley on the map for football in the Bay Area,” said Jandra. But he said that overall the most immediate goal prevails: “We just want to win. Plain and simple.”
The team recently had a rough game against rival Bishop O’Dowd, losing 55-0. While the Jackets have struggled up until this point, next week’s opponent presents an easier prospect. BHS will host Castro Valley High School, currently 1-5, on October 5th for the homecoming football game.