Football has been an on-again, off-again concern at Wilson High, just as it’s been in most places around the state. Practices were shut down for a few months as a precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then after coach Mark Ziegenhagen had started them back up, the poor air quality from the wildfires shut them back down again.
“It is what it is,” said Ziegenhagen, a well-worn mantra among local coaches this chool year. “It’s the weirdest year ever obviously. COVID, a heat wave, then the air quality. It’s been quite challenging, something I’ve never experienced in my life and I’ve been around the sport for a while.”
Ziegenhagen said that, like most Long Beach schools, he gave his kids a week off to start school. His team and coaches had been excited to get going again after that before the air quality canceled practices last week.
“It’s tough to get any momentum,” he said. “We have 75 kids on the roster and we get about 50 a practice anyways, because another 10 kids’ parents don’t want them to come, another 10 had to get jobs to help support their families. I’ve got kids staying home to watch their siblings all day while their parents are working—the players are the teachers for their younger siblings. It’s really a tough situation.”
All of the ups and downs have Ziegenhagen excited to think about a return to competitive action in January, as the Bruins have finalized their modified schedule for the season.
Wilson’s schedule looks similar to last year’s record-setting slate, with opening games against San Jacinto, Huntington Beach (both on the road), and then a home game against 7th street rivals St. Anthony.
“We love that local rivalry with St. Anthony on 7th Street, that’s a lot of fun for the kids,” said Ziegenhagen.
The Bruins originally had a zero week game scheduled with Warren, which was the only game that ended up not being able to be rescheduled for the Winter. Instead, the Bruins switched out a game with Mayfair, who they’ll play during their Moore League bye. That proximity friendly rivalry has been a lot of fun the last few seasons because of the relationship between Ziegenhagen and Mayfair coach Derek Bedell, who was originally on Ziegenhagen’s Wilson staff before getting the head job with the Monsoons.
As far as the league, Ziegenhagen thinks Poly, Lakewood, and Millikan will be the other top teams, and he hopes to continue his Bruins’ recent run of being the top challenger to the Jackrabbits. He acknowledged that his team will have some rebuilding to do after graduating several key players, including record-setting QB Ryan Pettway, who led the team to the CIF-SS quarterfinals last year.
“It’s hard to replace a 40 touchdown, 3,000 yard passer,” said Ziegenhagen.
His staff has proven itself at being able to reshape an offense around its personnel each year, which produced last year’s historic offensive success. This year’s challenge aside from the QB spot will be bringing up basically an entire new offensive line, after the Bruins had the same five core starters each of the last two years.
“We’re coming off some good seasons, we’ve had kids buy in, and the school is behind us,” said Ziegenhagen. “That’s what I love about my coaching staff—we adapt and we adjust and we figure it out.”
Wilson Football Schedule 2020-21
1/8 @ San Jacinto
1/15 @ Huntington Beach
1/22 vs. St. Anthony
1/29 vs. Compton
2/5 vs. Cabrillo
2/12 @ Poly
2/19 vs. Jordan
2/26 @ Lakewood
3/5 vs. Mayfair
3/12 @ Millikan