There is a bit of a buzz surrounding the Evergreen football team ahead of the 2018 season.
Last year, the first season under head coach Aaron Schmidt, the Vikings finished just under .500 at 4-6. Although they were picked to finish near the back of the pack at seventh in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, many feel they will be contenders this season.
Schmidt could already see a difference in his team at the start of practice this summer, in that everything was more familiar to them.
“Last year, when we were putting in a whole new offense, everybody was a freshman,” said the coach. “It was everybody’s first year. It was a lot more difficult. This year coming in, the kids already have the terminology. They already have the experience in knowing what we expect out of them.”
Furthermore, bringing back 14 letter winners helps a coach tremendously when entering his second year at a program.
Returning for the Vikings are Jack Etue (honorable mention All-NWOAL), David Carroll, Hunter VanWert (first team All-NWOAL, honorable mention all-district), Hunter Svoboda (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Brian Floyd, Trent Coopshaw, Isaiah Ziegler, Jack Krispin (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Nick Beemer (second team All-NWOAL, honorable mention all-district), Isaac Yunker (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Colten Pawlaczyk (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Bryce Eisel (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Jack Worline (honorable mention All-NWOAL) and Logan York.
The Vikings, much like last season, will lean heavily on VanWert.
“When you have a kid that runs an 11 flat 100 meter dash, you want to get him the ball,” stated Schmidt. “He’s a home run threat everytime he gets it. We want to run him but you know, we also want to make sure we try and stay balanced.
“I think we’ve got some weapons on the outside this year that are gonna be able to help take a little bit of the pressure off. So he (VanWert) is not running against 8, 9-man boxes all the time. Maybe we can get a 7-man box every once in awhile.”
But first, the Vikings will need their veteran offensive line to create holes for the talented tailback.
“It’s got to start with the offensive line,” said Schmidt on the offense. “We have, not big guys, but a lot of those guys this will be their third year starting. It’s good to have that security blanket of kids knowing where we’re supposed to go. They can make checks on the line.”
It will also be Etue’s third season starting under center for the Vikings. With another year under his belt, and now an upperclassmen, look for him to take charge of the offense this season.
“He really worked hard this offseason,” said Schmidt. “Worked on mechanics, worked on throwing motion, worked on strength. Got in the weight room. And I think just leadership too. He is more confident in himself and he’s gonna be able to run our offense more confidently I think than last year.”
The Vikings should be much improved on the defensive side of the ball as well. “We got a lot of guys coming back that are really gonna be able to do some good things for us,” said the Viking mentor.
The anchor of the unit will undoubtedly be Beemer, returning for his junior season after lettering as a sophomore.
“He’s just gotten bigger and stronger,” explained Schmidt. “We foresee that he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with inside. We are looking for him to be a big time player for us.”
One thing the Vikings are not short on is leadership with the return of 15 seniors. A few have stood out to coach Schmidt.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up already,” he said. “We have two captains that return (this) year. Colten Pawlaczyk as our center, and Bryce Eisel is another one. They’ve kind of taken those leadership roles.”
The Vikings are looking to make the jump to a winning season in 2018. The foundation is there, and they hope the results will follow.
Evergreen opens the season at Otsego Friday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010