A fresh face: Franklin aims to revitalize South Tahoe football
Louis Franklin didn’t have the South Tahoe football head coach position on his mind when it first opened up in February. Having completed his eighth season coaching football and in his fifth year as athletic director at his alma mater, the 33-year-old began pursuing the opening after receiving additional encouragement.
“My wife was urging me to do it,” Franklin said. “I really wasn’t thinking about it too much — my wife came home one day and told me to call South Tahoe up.”
Less than two months later, Franklin was hired as the 14th head coach in South Tahoe program history. He comes to the Vikings after eight seasons at Tokay High in Lodi, Calif. where he is fresh off a 7-4 mark in 2014 while leading the Tigers to three straight postseason appearances for the first time in history.
“It was an incredibly tough decision — Tokay has a very special place in my heart,” said Franklin, who also coaches boys golf and teaches special education at the school. “It’s not easy, but it sure is a lot easier when you meet great people that are positive and excited to win and learn more about myself and my program — there’s a lot of energy here.”
Franklin gained familiarity with the Vikings after bringing his Tokay teams to the Lake Tahoe Football Camp hosted at STHS each of the past four summers. The potential of South Tahoe’s program — and its location — drew Franklin to the job along with his wife Sara, son Tyler and daughters Gabi, Grace and Stella.
“I wasn’t ever planning on leaving, but it’s something that’s better for my family and better for our quality of life,” Franklin said. “I enjoy fishing, hiking and being in the outdoors and the kids enjoy it too — since we can’t live in Disneyland with our little ones, we figured this would be the second-best place.”
After spending eight seasons at Tokay, Franklin comes to South Lake Tahoe looking to revitalize the Vikings’ football program. And he plans to be at STHS for a while — at least long enough to coach his 8-year-old son in a South Tahoe uniform.
“There’s a clear mission here that’s focused on the students and the student-athletes,” Franklin said. “That’s something that is very refreshing and as an outsider looking in it’s a very attractive place to go — to see them have such a focus on the kids is awesome.”
After turning around the football program at his alma mater, Franklin is tasked with the same objective at South Tahoe. The Vikings went 14-43 in six seasons under previous head coach Kevin Hennessee and haven’t finished with a winning record since 2003.
“One of the things that drew me back to Tokay was restoring it and getting it back to where it needed to be,” Franklin said. “That same competitive aspect in myself and the challenge professionally makes this very enticing and something I want to do.”
Franklin will remain at Tokay until its school year ends in late May then report to South Tahoe. Though that will give the Vikings only three months before their season opener against El Dorado (Placerville, Calif.) on Aug. 28 at Viking Stadium, their new coach said he wouldn’t have begun offensive and defensive installation much earlier.
“We’re going to be able to do a lot more than I’ve ever been able to do — it’s just making sure there are enough kids out there to be excited about the program and feel the vision of what we want to do,” Franklin said.
The biggest challenge Franklin faces in his first season at STHS is building the numbers of the program. South Tahoe had just more than 20 players on its varsity team last season, about one-third the size of Tokay’s 2014 roster — and not enough personnel to run the platoon system Franklin plans to employ on both sides of the ball.
“If we get numbers up and we can platoon and get kids playing mostly one-way, we’ll be able to play as fast as we want,” Franklin said. “It’s a budding environment, there’s a new school culture with the principal and athletic director — and if these people can help get us numbers in the first year, they’re going to see the success they want immediately.”
When South Tahoe has the ball next season, Franklin plans to run a spread, no-huddle, triple-option offense that he developed at Tokay. The Vikings’ new base offense will resemble Georgia Tech’s triple option, and can evolve to include read option, power running and passing looks.
“We’re no-huddle and we’re on the ball — we play as fast as we can or as slow as we need to,” Franklin said. “From there we grow once can learn to play fast within that system — it depends on how quickly kids can pick up the concepts.”
No team in Northern Nevada runs a scheme similar to South Tahoe’s new offense, giving the Vikings an advantage over their opposition. Only one team, Fernley, has a similar base offense — but the Vaqueros don’t play with the tempo STHS plans to next year.
“When teams have to prepare for South Tahoe, I want that to be the most time-involved preparation,” Franklin said. “Our goal will be to focus on what we do and minimize the opponent — we are more concerned about our technique and our assignments than the person across from us.
“At home, we should never lose a game because teams aren’t used to playing in that altitude. In the valley, we were at sea level and we could gas teams without a problem.”
Defensively last season, Franklin’s Tokay team ran a 4-2-5 with five defensive backs to match up with spread offenses — and switched to a 4-4 against teams that primarily ran the ball. He said neither of those schemes is set in stone for South Tahoe next season, and that the Vikings’ defense will adapt based on the offense it lines up against.
“I’ll be relying on some of the returning coaching staff to help out on the defensive side of the ball, and it will be their job to convince me what they think is best,” Franklin said.
Franklin didn’t offer any predictions for the upcoming season, but indicated that his plan for the Vikings involves immediate success. He has made three straight postseason appearances as a head coach, and would like to see South Tahoe end its season in the playoffs in 2015.
“When we get those kids to go all-in and focus on a long-term goal by setting up a series of short-term goals, we can do unprecedented things,” Franklin said. “I’m not leaving a playoff team thinking that it’s going to take a few years to get to the playoffs — every week I want to go 1-0, and hopefully by the end of the season we’ll be 1-0 enough times to get to the playoffs.”
Before his first season at South Tahoe kicks off, Franklin knows the Vikings have a lot of work to do. And he can’t wait to get started.
“I want to be up there right now — I want to meet the kids, the coaches and the community formally,” Franklin said. “I can’t wait to get up there and do it.”
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