The Evergreen football program has a new coach this season, and with that brings a lot of positive energy. They are hoping that brings them more wins this season as they are coming off a 2016 campaign in which they finished 0-10.
“We hope to make improvements from last year,” said new coach Aaron Schmidt. “Building off a solid and young core (of players). Hoping to continue to improve (from) game to game and practice to practice.”
Probably the most important piece back for the Vikings is running back Hunter Van Wert, who was also first team All-NWOAL on special teams a year ago.
“He is somebody we’ve got to try and get loose. He is a weapon that we need to take advantage of,” said Schmidt of the junior tailback.
Senior Grant Donnald (honorable mention all-league) will be getting some carries as well for the Vikings.
“He ran track last year and got a lot faster,” said Schmidt of Donnald. “Him and Hunter are gonna be working well in the backfield together.”
Handing the ball off to those two will be sophomore signal caller Jack Etue. He was honorable mention all-league in 2016, and Schmidt is pleased with the progress he’s made.
“We’ve got our quarterback coming back,” he said. “He is three months past being a freshman. He is still young and he still makes some freshman mistakes, but he is gonna be really good.
“We’ve got a really good quarterbacks coach in Tyler Kleeberger. He is really working with him. Working on making reads and just little things.”
The Vikings also have many of their receivers back according to Schmidt. One of those is senior Free Canales, another honorable mention all-league performer from a year ago.
Other returnees include Noah Malosh, Conner Sawyers, David Carroll, Hunter Svoboda, Isaac Yunker, Colten Pawlaczyk, Bryce Eisel (honorable mention all-league), Jack Worline, Isaiah Ziegler, Brian Floyd, Jack Krispin, Nick Beemer (honorable mention all-league) and Shane Ruetz.
The Vikings are adding newcomers Josh Dowling, Jagger Dewitt, Will Smithmyer and Jace Jenkins. They will be looking to fill the void left behind by graduated letter winners Tyler Noe (honorable mention all-league) and Jon Milliken.
Schmidt feels another strength of his team will be their defense.
“I think our defense is gonna be pretty solid,” he said. “I think we are gonna need to make sure that we focus on stopping the run. We’ve got some good athletes in the defensive backfield.”
Being that he is a first year coach in the league, the Viking mentor is unsure of how his team will stack up against the rest of the competition. He just knows that it will be a battle each week.
“It is one of the best leagues in northwest Ohio. There is good football teams, there’s good coaches,” said Schmidt of the NWOAL. “Every week is gonna be a challenge, both mentally and physically for our kids. And for our coaching staff.”
Evergreen will be looking to follow the old mantra of one game at a time, without looking ahead of any opponent.
“A team that was 0-10 last year, we literally have to go from game to game. We have 10 one-game seasons,” said Schmidt. “We have a week to prepare (for each game). We are gonna try and do whatever we can to be successful that night, and to get better.”
Evergreen opens the season at home versus Otsego Friday, then they travel to Montpelier Sept. 1, before returning home to face Ottawa Hills on Sept. 8. They open league play at home against league favorite Liberty Center on Sept. 15.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010