It’s all-hands-on-deck in more ways than one for Columbia High’s young football team this season.

The Bruins graduated a large and talented senior class and will rely on numerous underclassmen this fall. What’s more, head Coach Dan Smith is on leave for another couple of weeks, so the Bruin assistant coaches are also having to step up into new roles.

Things are progressing about as good as could be expected, according to interim head coach Shawn Friese. “That’s a testament to Dan’s organization and what he’s established with the program,” Friese said. “We’re all on the same page. It’s been pretty seamless. (At the same time) we’re all missing him.”

On the field, the Bruins have 33 players out thus far, which is somewhat low. “Our numbers are a little down this year. Thirty-three out, that not too abnormal for us,” Friese said.

He added that COVID is to blame, including the fact that the team wasn’t able to do as much training and camps as it normally would. That said, “Everyone is just really thankful to start out with a normal season,” Friese said of the fall campaign. “New normal. Especially after last year. We’re still completely in the thick of it (COVID); nobody is taking anything for granted.”

“There’s just going to be a lot of young guys stepping up; we’re going to need all-hands-on-deck this year,” Friese said. “I don’t think we have one guy who is going to beat guys and outrun them.”

Among the experienced returning players are senior Jace Greenwood, junior Michael Smith, and senior Kevin Medina. Greenwood, a running back last year, has been moved to quarterback to take advantage of his athletic ability. He will play “Rambo” on defense – a combo linebacker/safety position in the Bruin set. Smith and Medina are part of a group of linemen which has been a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff.

“We weren’t anticipating it, but we have quite a few linemen out,” Friese said. Smith, son of the head coach, is the quarterback among the offensive front, “a communicator on the line,” Friese said. “We have multiple lineman who played JV last year and are ready to step up for us this year.”

Friese said a couple of the younger player who will see ample playing time include junior Avery Schalk and sophomore Petey Schlegel – at receiver and in the secondary on defense – and sophomore tailback/linebacker Wesley White.

Columbia opens its season 7 p.m. Friday at Goldendale and is on the road the following week, as well, at Stevenson.