Nate Avery never could have imagined what the 2015 football season would bring.
Avery, who was set to be a big part of the Templeton High School offense as a running back, suffered a shoulder injury early in his junior season that caused him to miss three games. But it was a traumatic brain injury to his close friend, Isaac Lindsey, that shocked Avery and the entire Templeton community.
In the aftermath, Avery became a spokesperson of sorts for his injured friend, sharing with the media and the rest of the Central Coast the type of person Lindsey was, along with stories of their bond. He painted signs for Lindsey’s triumphant return home after he spent nearly three months in the hospital and rehabilitation facility, stayed strong and never shied from the spotlight.
“Nate is a great leader,” Templeton’s first-year head coach Tyler Lane said. “The kids really rally behind him.”
The Eagles will look to Avery again as a leader as the team undergoes big changes in 2016.
Lane, the offensive coordinator last season, replaced Dan Loney as head coach. Loney stepped down after four seasons to take an assistant coaching job at Paso Robles.
On top of losing a head coach, Templeton lost a handful of key contributors on both sides of the ball.
But one thing hasn’t changed — Lindsey is still a part of the team.
“Isaac is always here,” Avery said at practice last week. “Sometimes he misses a couple things because of his appointments — physical therapy, speech therapy — but he is here as much as he can be, and he is still a part of the team.”
Though he won’t put on pads this season, Lindsey will help out with the coaching staff. Avery said the senior Lindsey will also be a captain. No doubt Avery will be as well.
“It is important that he feels a part of the team, as he is,” Avery said. “But we are not trying to overdo it. We are not hooting and hollering just when he is there. We are the same. We treat him the same as we would if he wasn’t injured.”
For Avery, it seems that the weight of Lindsey’s injury and absence last year has been replaced with a chip on his shoulder.
“I don’t feel like Templeton is given enough credit for how much heart we have with what we have,” Avery said. “Yeah, we don’t have the greatest stuff. We don’t have a Paso weight room, but we put in just as much work.”
Templeton will have their work cut out for them with a pair of new quarterbacks vying for playing time.
With the departure of Jordan Bernal, who threw for more than 3,000 yards in two seasons, Templeton loses a reliable dual-threat quarterback. This season, Templeton will look to Morgan Scovell, a junior who played baseball instead of football last season, and Jack Trimble, a sophomore who quarterbacked a 4-5 junior varsity team last season.
Lane describes Trimble as a smart thrower who runs the offense well and Scovell as the big-play guy with tons of arm talent. Both are expected to play this season.
“They have two different styles,” said Lane, who will run a spread offense again this season. “We are just trying to figure out what we want.”
Lane said that defense will be a strength this season, especially at linebacker where senior Dylan Prins and Avery will play in a new 3-4 scheme. Still, Templeton will face a familiar challenge.
“Something we always struggle with is numbers,” Prins said. “We don’t have a lot of kids on our team. We average like 30-35 kids, so it’s hard. We struggle with injuries.”
Lane said that all 33 players on the roster will see some playing time, but he believes the defense will improve on last season.
“I think it is going to be a grind all the way through, and obviously we want to finish on top, but I think it is going to be a battle. It is going to be a tough league to get through this year but we are excited, confident,” Lane said. “We are ready to go.”
With all the changes in the Templeton football program, with Lindsey and Avery back on the sideline together ready to begin the season Sept. 2, something seems right again.