Christmas Eve in Hawaii.
There are worse fates to suffer.
St. Helena High 2012 graduate Charles Bertoli and the rest of his Boise State football teammates will take the field against Oregon State Tuesday at 5 p.m. for the Hawaii Bowl, will be broadcast on ESPN.
Richard Hoppe, who graduated from St. Helena in 2013, is also on the Broncos’ roster and is currently redshirting.
The Broncos (8-4 overall) experienced a shakeup with the resignation of head coach Chris Peterson, who was hired by the University of Washington to become their head coach. Boise State has since hired Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin, who served as a Broncos assistant from 2007-2010.
Boise State linebackers coach Bob Gregory will be the interim coach for the Hawaii Bowl.
Bertoli redshirted last season after being an invited walk-on, and added that Peterson played a big role in his opting to come to Boise State.
“In high school, I knew how great of a coach he had been,” Bertoli said. “I heard a lot of great things about his influence on the players’ lives outside of football. I didn’t really have a certain school that I wanted to go to but after talking to Boise State and seeing the facility I was really hoping I would come here. Coach Pete let that happen. He has taught me a lot of great things in the two years I’ve been here.”
As a backup tailback and kick returner, Bertoli has carried 17 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. He caught one pass for eight yards. He also had six kickoff returns for 87 yards.
“You have to take everything the coaches tell you and you can’t get caught up in some of the negative stuff,” Bertoli said. “When I first got here, I pretty much got told that I should transfer if I was serious about playing football. I used that as fuel for the fire. I just worked as hard as I could last year and into this spring. I wanted to carry that over into this fall.”
Coming out of St. Helena, Bertoli had suitors such as Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, which is a Div. III school.
Bertoli likely could have gone to any number of such schools and played immediately, if not started.
Bertoli, however, opted to go the invited walk-on route for Div. I Boise State. After redshirting as a freshman, Bertoli had the opportunity to get physically stronger and mentally adapt to life as a college student-athlete. After all, going from high school to college is not only an athletic adjustment but also a life transition.
“I think it helps a lot not only just the year you get to learn the playbook and the tempo at the D-I level,” Bertoli said. “It’s also a good opportunity to build relationships with the guys that are in your class that you redshirted with for 45 workouts. They pretty much become your family once you move up here away from your family.”
Life as a college student-athlete is an enormous commitment:
• Wake up at 5:45 a.m. to lift weights for an hour
• Have team meetings until 9 a.m.
• Practice until 11:20 a.m.
• Have lunch before classes, which go until about 4:15 p.m.
• Finish course work, have dinner and go to bed so you can do it again the next day.
Bertoli enjoyed a storied career with the Saints, setting numerous season records, some of which Sebastian Segura eclipsed this past season — 29 rushing touchdowns, 37 total touchdowns and 224 total points scored.
Bertoli also established the following career marks — 320 total points scored, 53 total touchdowns, 46 total rushing touchdowns, 2,381 total rushing yards and 326 rushing attempts on the way to earning All-Napa County Player of the Year honors.
As a senior, Bertoli amassed 1,214 yards rushing, six receiving touchdowns and 52 total tackles. Those numbers would have been significantly higher but Bertoli was often pulled early from lopsided games.
Even though the Hawaii Bowl might not have the bright lights of the New Year’s Day bowls and beyond, Bertoli added that the Broncos’ matchup against Oregon State (6-6) is a good opportunity on another level. It’s a chance for a Mountain West Conference school to beat a Pac-12 opponent.
“I think this is the biggest game of the year for us,” Bertoli said. “We get another chance at a Pac-12 opponent. It’s kind of a redemption game for us because we were unable to beat Washington like we were hoping to. We’re going to give Oregon State all we have.”
Bertoli was referring to Boise State’s season-opening 38-6 loss to Washington.
The Broncos’ season finale was Nov. 30, which was a 45-17 win over New Mexico, but they did not know their bowl opponent until Dec. 8.
“We were in basic practice mode when we didn’t know our opponent,” Bertoli said. “That was a pretty standard practice where we would have our individual periods and team vs. team. Since we found out who we are playing we have scouting periods.”
The Broncos have had a three-week layoff.
“The first part of bowl preparation was more about getting ourselves right and taking time off to get our players healthy,” Bertoli said. “Then we go hard at practice. It was hard the first couple of days with the changes that took place, but we’re getting back into it just fine.”
Bertoli is also in a position of playing a counselor role to another former Saints and Carpy Gang comrade in Hoppe.
Like Bertoli, Hoppe enjoyed a storied career at St. Helena and had many small college suitors. Also like Bertoli, Hoppe went the invited walk-on route for the Broncos. Hoppe started at the No. 5 quarterback before elevating to No. 3. And also like Bertoli, Hoppe has used his freshman year to redshirt to get himself physically and mentally acclimated.
“I’ve tried to give Richard as much help as I can,” Bertoli said. “He’s been doing a good job. I haven’t had to do too much. I just told him the things I had to do last year, the things that worked and didn’t work. I pretty much told him how to get on the coach’s radar. As long as he sticks it out, he has a bright future.”
Bertoli was part of some historic success with both the Carpy Gang and St. Helena High. In 2005, the Carpy Gang JV team went undefeated becoming the first team to do so since the 1975 Carpy Gang “C” team. In 2011, the Saints went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1976 and won their first playoff game since 1977.
Though Bertoli is physically removed from the Saints program, he is still connected mentally and emotionally.
“I am really invested in how the team does,” Bertoli said. “I always check in with Coach (Brandon) Farrell and Coach (Sam) Licina before games. We go back and forth asking each other questions about our next game. I always love to catch up with them.”