A season of change for Vikings | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A season of change for Vikings

Steve Yingling

The clock operator is going to love the 2005 South Tahoe High football team.

South Tahoe plans to turn back the clock, though, with its style of football under new coach Nick Samaras. Like the successful Vikings’ teams of the early 1990s, Samaras is going to emphasize a rushing attack. They may go quarters or even halves without throwing a forward pass.

“We’re hard-nosed power football, none of this passing,” said senior two-way player Buck Pershing. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ll have a little bit of passing when we feel we need to pass.”

The conversion from a wide-open passing offense to a running attack has been smoother than the team’s transition to a 4-4 defense.

“It’s taken a while to grasp what we want and to see what we can do off certain (formations). That’s coming along a little better than the defense right now because during the summer it’s difficult to really practice defense because you can’t hit,” Samaras said.

For the past decade, few Nevada prep teams threw the ball as much as South Tahoe. But a passing offense isn’t recommended if you don’t have all of the pieces. The Vikings took a substantial graduation hit, losing quarterback Mikey Van Gorden and receivers Spencer Dean, Eric Domingo, Randy Henson and Bryan Finkel as well as passing-minded coaches Todd McIntyre and Eric Beavers, who resigned.

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“There is no one outstanding player like a lot of teams have,” Samaras said. “These are a good bunch of kids who are learning to play together. Once they do learn to play together, we’ll be fine.”

What the Vikings do return, though, is a pair ball carriers from last year’s playoff qualifier in Martin Taylor and Pershing. Taylor rushed for 80 yards in a 48-19 playoff defeat to McQueen last year and was the team’s top running back. Pershing played several positions before injuries moved him into the backfield. The injury bug finally bit him in the seventh game and he missed the final few games with a partially torn medial collateral ligament.

The injury didn’t require surgery and Samaras plans to use him as a slotback.

Solidly built tailback Ian White should also get his share of touches as the Vikings figure to have the ability to run power and misdirection plays with equal effectiveness.

The running game’s productivity will obviously depend on the development of an inexperienced but larger than normal line. There is size with 6-foot-1, 260-pound senior center Chris Skelly, 210-pound senior guard Jason Holland, 185-pound senior tight end Max Meeker and 235-pound sophomore tackle Oscar Navarro. Skelly, Holland and Meeker were varsity reserves a year ago.

Operating the new offense will be junior Ryan Woods, who directed the junior varsity a year ago.

“He’s the one who has been putting the time in and Chris Diana is backing him up right now, and that could change by the time the season starts,” Samaras said.

Since practice opened on Aug. 11, Meeker has been the brightest defensive star, but Samaras is counting on his defense getting better as the season progresses.

“We’re flying around defensively. I love their enthusiasm, I love the way they get to the ball … we just need to learn our assignments and then they’ll be better and that aggressiveness they have will really kick in,” Samaras said.

Pershing isn’t buying into it being a season of adjustment and rebuilding.

“Everybody is overlooking us. They think we’re gonna be nothing,” Pershing said. “We have new coaches coming in, no real returners from varsity, so we’re gonna come out and shock some teams.

“We got a lot of assets on offense, some real quick guys and all we need is our line to step it up. All that is gonna come with heart.”

Samaras, who is a varsity head coach for the second time, is focused on putting a solid product on the field.

“I’m not going to make any predictions that we’re going to be a playoff team or we’re going to win the league, but whoever we play against, my goals are to make sure we’re competitive and we can play with people. Anything can happen after that,” he said.

STHS opens its season against Galena on Sept 3. in Viking Bowl.

Vikings breakout

Coach: Nick Samaras, first year

Last year: 3-8 (fourth in Sierra Division, lost to McQueen in first round of playoffs, 48-19)

Top returners: RB Martin Taylor, senior; RB/LB Buck Pershing, senior defensive back Mark Dalmacio.

First game: Sept 3 at home vs. Galena

Keys to season: How quickly untested Vikings adjust to varsity football.