After a two-year layoff, the Long Beach City College football team is ready to get back on the field and make itself known again. LBCC didn’t compete last year, and weren’t allowed to even go back on campus for conditioning workouts, something that high school and NCAA athletes were able to do more or less continuously throughout the pandemic. That led to a lot of frustration and pent-up desire to get back on the field.
“I’m not going to lie, the first two months after they told us that there wasn’t going to be a season, it was rough,” said returning Vikings quarterback Derrach West. “I went into a depressed state for a while. Then I realized okay, you can’t sit around here not doing anything, and I got back to work and got in the weight room.”
In recent practices, the emotion at Veterans Memorial Stadium has been palpable–among coaches as well as players.
“It’s incredibly rewarding just to be able to do my job again,” said LBCC football coach Brett Peabody. “Seeing young men in person, being able to coach, to teach, to be a mentor, to help with life issues. It’s personal for me, and my staff–it’s phenomenal to be back. You can see it on the kids’ faces, how happy they are to compete and to be back out here together.”
The Vikings have had a practice shutdown of a few days already due to a positive COVID-19 test and had to cancel last week’s scrimmage against Santa Ana. They’re hoping to take the field together for their first game at LA Harbor this Saturday at 1 p.m. If not, they’ll host Riverside Sept. 11 in their first home game in 22 months. Either way, they’re fired up.
“All we can control is the controllables,” said Peabody. “Do we show up for PCR testing? Do we show up and practice and work hard? Life is going to always throw you some curveballs, it’s just up to you how to handle them. We want to teach our kids to battle through.”
Peabody did admit that he had a crisis of faith as he watched high school and NCAA players get some kind of a football season together last school year, while his players weren’t even allowed to stretch together on campus.
“It makes you question things,” he said. “I’ve been coaching at this level in this state for a long, long time, because I love these kids and in part because they’re not supported by a lot of people. But the way things were handled, not being able to do my job, it was really tough. It took a toll. But it is what it is–we’re happy to be back out.”
The team that’s on the field is a great one–the Vikings are ranked No. 30 in the nation and are perhaps the most talented group that Peabody has had during his successful tenure at LBCC. Because California’s JC governing body (the CCCAA) and the NCAA have granted an additional year of eligibility each of the last two COVID-19-affected seasons, but kids have continued to graduate high school, there are essentially four classes of kids in the program at LBCC. Peabody and his staff have tried to avoid “stockpiling” kids, as he says he has a moral opposition to keeping kids on the roster that he’s not planning on playing.
“We didn’t do it, we never do that,” he said. “There are some programs that have 140-plus, and it’s not what we stand for. But it’s been challenging.”
The Vikings have a ton of talent at every position, with multiple position groups the most talented Peabody has had in his tenure. At quarterback, there’s a three-way battle between West, Blaze McKibbin, and Kingston Hala.
The running backs are stacked, with returner Saeed Galloway likely to split time with Jonathan Watson, Elijah Davis, Tstrong Matele, and Ghost Clemente from Arizona.
The Vikings have a massive offensive line up front that includes several Moore League players, and a loaded group at the skill positions outside. Zach Leets anchors a group that features Jerron Lincoln, Tyon Harvey, Zecheriah Dolphin, Zach Martin, and others.
Defensively Peabody is fired up to have one of California’s best units in the defensive backfield. Peabody says Thaddeus Dixon has a chance to be his best DB ever, alongside Paul “Trey” Edwards III. DeJon Vanhook and Jayden Davis out of Millikan round out the secondary alongside Hagen Foreman.
The Vikings have a battle at linebacker as well as several standouts up front for the defensive line including Xavier Cousar.