BELLINGHAM - The Bellingham High football team is making a fresh start in 2012.
New coach. New playbook. New attitude. Old uniforms - OK, new "old school" uniforms.
The Red Raiders took to the field for the first time under new coach Steve Wilson for a pair of practice sessions on Wednesday, Aug. 15, wearing bright white helmets with red facemasks. Gone are the days of the red-and-black-fade helmets and just about all black anywhere on the Red Raiders' uniforms.
"Everything has changed this year," quarterback Justin Pruett said. "We have a new coach with new plays, so why not new uniforms?"
On game day, those white helmets will have red "B"s on the side, and Bellingham will wear red jerseys with white pants with the double red lines running down the side, very similar to what the team traditionally wore. Bellingham athletic director Chad Larsen described the new "old" look as "a Stanford style."
"I don't know if I would say a Stanford look - it's an old Bellingham look," Wilson said after practice. "But if they want to compare us to Stanford, I can't think of any school I'd rather be compared to. That's a school that, obviously, academics comes first and football comes second for all those guys. I would hope that we would be models of that."
While the uniform and the coach were the most noticeable differences on Wednesday, players said they already noticed a difference in the feeling of practice.
"I think it's a matter of getting rid of the bad vibes from last year," running back Marques Reynolds said. "We're making a fresh start, and the biggest thing that has changed for us is our attitude. I think everybody on this team believes in us and what we can do."
That's a big change from last year, when Bellingham went 2-8 and finished at the bottom of the Northwest Conference standings in the final season under Doug Trainor, who takes over at Stanwood but is still teaching at Bellingham.
Wilson, who was an assistant at Bellingham for five seasons before leaving to become the first football coach at Squalicum for eight seasons until he resigned following the 2005 season, said he deliberately stayed away from the football program the past six years but was excited to get back on the field with his new team on Wednesday
The Red Raiders drew about 40 sophomores, juniors and seniors for the first day of practice.
"When school gets up and running, there are always a few kids that come out," Wilson said. "So we're really happy with our numbers right now. Of course, we'd always like to have more kids. We'd love to have more, but I'm not disappointed."
Wilson said he's still getting a feel for what he has, especially along the offensive front and on defense.
"The offensive line and everywhere on defense are kind of the same," Wilson said. "You don't know exactly what you have until you see them in pads. Once we're able to put on the pads, then we'll get a better idea exactly what we're looking at."
Even out of pads, the players are already seeing a change, though.
"We had our ups and downs," Bellingham lineman Thomas Vazorka said. "We need to work on better speed and getting plays down better, but it was a pretty good first day of practice. I think we're all optimistic. The morale level is definitely up. Everybody is excited and ready to go this year."
That's a feeling Bellingham looks to carry into its Aug. 31 season opener at Mount Baker.
"As long as we play as a group and believe in one another, I know that we can be a strong team this year," Reynolds said. "You can tell we've turned a corner here at Bellingham. It's not just football, but basketball and every other sport, as well. We're all taking steps in the right direction."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
This is the second in a series of reports from the 11 Whatcom County high school football teams during preseason practices.
Next up: Sehome
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.