There is a lot to like for first-year Evergreen football coach Evan Karchner as he takes the reins in 2022. He was able to get a total of 37 players to come out, and Karchner and his staff are currently in the process of molding them into the types of players he wants.
He feels they have a good foundation of players.
“We’re happy to get our numbers up. Obviously, trying to play in the 20s with players last year that’s hard to win with the best coaches,” said Karchner. “But we have good kids and good athletes. That’s one thing (with) Evergreen, everyone’s like you can’t win there, but they win in other boys sports. They have athletes. I would say, as I came in it was more of a culture (issue). You didn’t have the regular tough-nosed kids right away. But you just kind of got to show them (the right way to play).
“I tell them all the time, you can mess up on scheme — obviously it’s a new offense, new defense, new special teams. I was like, that’s OK you’re gonna mess up. You’re 15 to 17 years old; I’ll never yell at you for messing up on scheme. I will yell at you for not going 100 miles per hour.”
Hoping to get the Vikings headed in the right direction offensively is quarterback Hunter Vaculik. He was honorable mention All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League on defense a season ago.
“We really like our quarterback Hunter Vaculik. He’s gonna be the leader of our offense,” stated Karchner. “He also runs the ball very hard, and he’s one of our tough-nosed kids. We’re trying to push him to be more vocal and lead our team — which is hard because he is also a junior. He was a all-league player as a sophomore and he is more of a lead by example (player). But we’re pushing him out of his comfort zone to lead being vocal.”
When looking downfield this season, Vaculik’s most likely target will be Riley Dunbar. He was also honorable mention All-NWOAL in 2021.
“The kid that stands out to everybody is gonna be Riley Dunbar. He’s our 6’5” wide receiver,” said the new Viking coach of his junior receiver. “He jumps out of the gym. He’s the one that looks different when we walk on field. That can create the problems, because, you know in our league an average DB is 5’10” — he’s 6’5”. And I bet you he has a 40-inch vertical. So that’s gonna be hard just to match up.”
Other returning letter winners for the Vikings are Diesel Stoykoff (second team All-NWOAL defense), Connor Hewson (honorable mention all-league), Sam Worline (honorable mention all-league), Grant Richardson (honorable mention all-league), Robert Pennington (honorable mention all-league), Ben Ruetz, Andrew Geer, Layne Vance, Trevor Johnson, Colton Robertson, Max Mossing, Jack Stubleski, Ryder Hudik, Drew Gillen, Jesse Spradlin, Camden Schlueter and Woran Thompson.
While the Vikings would almost certainly like to throw it up to Dunbar and their other receivers on every play, that’s difficult to do in a league as physical as the NWOAL. Therefore, they must become more physical themselves, creating an effective ground game to go along with their passing attack.
“When we watch film from last year, our team wasn’t tough. Running the football and stopping the run, everybody likes to say it, but we work on our run plays more than our pass plays. And we work on stopping the run (defensively),” Karchner said.
Defensively, with a focus first on stopping the run, the Vikings hope to limit the primary strength of many of the teams they will come up against in the league. They intend for their opponents to have to work for every score.
“I always say, if we’re gonna make teams beat us, make them make long throws down the field. Everything revolves around that,” Karchner said. “Let’s not let a team line up and get five yards a carry, and shove it all the down our throat all the way down the field. Make it hard on them. But, if Liberty Center’s quarterback can go down the field and keep making passes, fine, they’re better than I thought. But we’re gonna make them do that.”
Linebacker play is an area of concern for the Viking coach staff, according to Karchner.
“We have five linebackers out there, so it’s about changing them. I’m not sure how they were coached in the past, but getting them to play downhill, play physical and get penetration. It’s been a day in and day out, we got to coach that. We got to push our kids to play like that if we want to win any football games,” he said.
Evergreen finished 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the league last season. They will work hard to increase that win total, particularly as it relates to the NWOAL.
“Our conference is extremely talented and tough,” noted Karchner. “We have a lot of solid football teams that compete very hard on a week-to-week basis. In our league, you have to bring your best game every Friday if you want to be successful. We are excited to be here and compete with some of the best teams in Northwest Ohio.”
Evergreen is at North Baltimore to begin the season this Friday. They open NWOAL play by hosting Delta on Friday, Sept. 9.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.