Evergreen will need its seasoned players to lead the way and their younger ones to get adjusted quickly in order to have success on the gridiron in 2021.
“We will need our experienced players to step up and help the new kids on both sides of the ball. We will need to have some leaders emerge in order to help lead our team through hard times and keep us focused during good times. Offensively we will need to establish a run game and control the clock and get our playmakers the ball in space. Defensively we need to do a better job of not giving up the big play, which has been an Achilles heel for us in the past,” said fifth-year head coach Aaron Schmidt.
Notable returnees for the Vikings include starters Payton Boucher, an honorable mention All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League quarterback and Landen Vance, first team All-NWOAL punter and honorable mention all-league at defensive end.
Boucher completed 72/150 through the air in 2020 for 815 yards and eight touchdowns, while also rushing for 407 yards and three TDs. He had 34 tackles and a sack on the defensive side.
Vance accumulated 54 tackles and three sacks, and averaged 30.4 yards per punt.
Other returning starters back are Cody Sheller (OL/DT), Sam Worline (OL/DE), Riley Dunbar (WR/DB) and Grant Richardson (WR).
Also seeing action a season ago were kicker Alex Peete (K, 9/11 PATs), Ashton Sayers (OL/DE, 7 tackles), Connor Hewson (RB/DB, 14 tackles), Andrew Geer (OL/DT, 4 tackles), Camden Schlueter (OL/DE, 3 tackles), Diesil Stoykoff (OL/DT, 5 tackles) and Robbie Pennington (OL/DE, 4 tackles).
A newcomer to the squad is Jesse Spradlin (WR/DB).
The Vikings will run a power spread on offense this season.
“This season our strengths offensively will be at our skilled positions. We return our quarterback and two of our wide receivers. We need to lean on their experience to move the ball and score points,” explained Schmidt.
However, up front is where some troubles could arise. “We only return two starters on the offensive line. It will be fun to see who wins those positions through camp and throughout the season. We will need the offensive line to mature quickly if we plan on being a formidable offensive unit,” the Viking coach said.
They will employ a 4-3 on defense.
“We return some strong starters on the defensive line and one in the secondary positions this year,” Schmidt said on the strengths of his defense. “They will need to be leaders on the defense to get off the field on third downs and keep the opposition out of the end zone more than last year.”
The Vikings do lose some key pieces from their defense and the team in general. Colin Smith was a honorable mention all-league defensive back a year ago, while Jake Fuller was a first team all-league offensive lineman in each of the last two seasons and was honorable mention all-league at linebacker in 2020.
Logan York was a second team all-league defensive end in 2019. Other departures include Tanner Pollard (HB/LB), Jacob Riggs and Brenden Matuszak.
“We lose three starters at linebacker. We will need some kids to step and/or move positions to fill the needs here at the linebacker position to help shut down opposing run games. With some run-heavy offenses early in the season we will need the kids who fill these positions to step up and step up quickly,”Schmidt said on the main weakness of his defense.
Special teams, particularly the punt team, could be advantageous for the Vikings with Vance returning.
“We return an all NWOAL punter who will be solid again for us this year,” said Schmidt. “We will have a position battle at place-kicker between three kids (Peete, Matt Hassen, Dunbar). Hopefully those kids embrace that challenge and push each other to excel. We will need to replace our long snapper from a year ago who had a couple years of experience long snapping for us.”
Schmidt views the NWOAL as being ripe with competition, but a couple teams stand out to him above the others.
“I suspect Archbold to be at the top, along with Liberty Center,” he said. “Delta returns a solid group from last year and I see them knocking off some good teams this year. Wauseon and Bryan being the larger schools in the league always are competitive — as are PH and Swanton. Any team on any given Friday night can beat another in this league. It should be another fun season.”
Evergreen hosts North Baltimore Friday to begin the 2021 campaign.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.