A year ago, Elliot Bird stepped into a pivotal role as the quarterback of the Black River Falls High School football team — a position he previously had no experience playing.
The move came as then-senior Ethan Anderson moved from quarterback to wide receiver, which allowed Bird to take on a new and difficult challenge. Bird grasped the system and picked up things quickly during his sophomore season, said Tigers’ coach Jim Bible. Now the 6-foot-2, 160-pound junior is ready for another season with the Tigers, who have a 30-player roster.
“We use this analogy that if the bus is driving down to Madison for the state tournament, everybody has to get in the right seats on the bus,” said Bible, who is entering his 18th season as the Tigers’ coach. “Last year we did that and it payed off. This year Elliot is only a junior and he’ll keep progressing even more.”
In his first season as the Tigers’ quarterback, Bird passed for 1,586 yards, or an average of 176.2 yards per game. The junior also accumulated 247 yards rushing and four touchdowns, all of which came against Onalaska Luther in a 47-0 victory. Overall, it was a rebuilding year for Black River Falls, which finished 2-7, including 2-3 in the Coulee.
After having to learn an entirely new system, plus the proper footwork and mechanics of playing quarterback, Bird now has a new level of confidence. That, Bible believes, can only lead to good things for the Tigers.
“I’ve been learning my offense a lot more and have been working on my arm strength to become a better quarterback,” Bird said. “With that experience last year, I learned what I needed to work on and what I needed to do to be a better quarterback, and now I’m more confident.”
Along with Bird, the Tigers’ 12-member senior class will bring with it plenty of experience to Black River Falls’ roster. Team captain Sean Johnson is back after a junior year that included 26 total tackles in five games. Ethan Bible also is returning after finishing last season with 135 receiving yards on 17 receptions in seven games.
The upperclassmen, along with a freshmen class of around 25, have shown Jim Bible the level of intensity and mentality that he’s been hoping to see.
“They kind of have the idea to play for each other and play together, and with that I think they’ll have some good results,” Bible said. “That team chemistry will really help us get through some rough spots on Friday nights, but the proof is in the pudding, so we’ll see when we get there.”
In order to prepare for those rough spots, Jim Bible and his staff are teaching the importance of every play, and not taking any play for granted. It’s the same philosophy Jim Bible has taught for the past 17 years as coach, and its significance has been proven the past two seasons when Black River Falls went winless in 2016, then won two games last season. It literally is one step at a time for the tradition-rich Tigers’ program.
“We have a long history of successful football in Black River Falls, but the last two years were rough sledding for us,” Jim Bible said. “We can’t take anything for granted otherwise every Friday night will be a challenge for us again.
“A lot of big wins in the past have come down to two or three plays, and a lot of heartbreaking losses have come down to two or three plays. That’s what he tell the kids, that those two or three plays make a big difference.”