‘Improve’ is Vikings’ motto in 2002 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Improve’ is Vikings’ motto in 2002

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor
Dan ThriftSTHS junior running back Grant Swinney follows his blockers during the team's single practice Wednesday. Double practices ended Tuesday

The numbers are rising and so is South Tahoe High’s confidence going into the 2002 football season.

Once in jeopardy of fielding a varsity team, the Vikings now number 28 players. A recent three-way scrimmage with two of the North’s top teams, Galena and Douglas, did nothing to shrink the roster.

“We’ve improved a lot, that’s for sure,” said Viking senior strong safety Kory Collins. “At the scrimmage we did a lot better than anyone thought we would.”

As a result, co-interim head coach Rod Robison sees no reason why the Vikings, coming off an 0-9 season, can’t raise their expectations.

“We have history and we have to look forward,” said Robison, who took over the team along with Chris Morgan when Eric Beavers resigned under protest Aug. 13. “We’re preparing to win games.”

“We’re trying to improve and we want to win some games, but our main goal right now is to improve and come together as a team,” Morgan said. “If we do that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

A speedy backfield led by senior quarterback Robert Smith and junior running back Grant Swinney will trigger the offense.

“Swinney is going to be a great one,” Morgan said. “He can read blocks very well, he can read the defense and he’s great at cutting back and finding the hole.”

Not to mention that the former youth football star is tough to catch in the open field.

“He’s very quick, very nimble and makes guys miss,” Morgan said.

Morgan and Robison are pleased with the leadership Smith has provided, especially for a player who once was the team’s top receiver.

“He’s been really positive moving over to that position and taking on that leadership role,” Morgan said.

Smith ran for one touchdown and passed for two others during the three-way scrimmage.

They’ll run behind a big offensive front, which includes junior tackle Adam Fountain (6-1, 215), junior center Chris Thorne (6-0, 238 pounds), junior guard Richie Giesen (5-9, 170 pounds) and junior guard Renne Rodriguez (5-11, 220).

On defense, the Vikings will count on a limited number of seniors to get the job done. Seniors Luis Aquino (tackle), Collins (strong safety) and Phillip Griffith (linebacker) and junior safety Ryan Kraw will anchor the inexperienced group.

“The defensive usually comes along quicker than the offense, but in the scrimmage we had a little trouble wrapping up,” said Morgan, the varsity’s defensive coordinator the past two years. “The scheme was fine. Now we just have to tackle the darn guy.”

A surprise turnout to the team is 6-foot-8, 240-pound Curtis Johnson, a star center on the school’s basketball team.

“I’d love to have three or four guys that size,” said Morgan, who plans to use Johnson at defensive end and tight end.

For Collins, the excitement of a new season doesn’t reach its apex until the team collectively marches down the hill for the home opener with ACDC’s hit song Hell’s Bells cranked up on the stadium stereo.

“It gets your adrenaline going, along with seeing the crowd. That’s the only time I get that feeling,” Collins said.

The Vikings scrimmage at Sparks on Friday before kicking off their season at home against Reed on Sept. 7.

Co-Coaches: Chris Morgan and Rod Robison, first-year head coaches.

Last year: 0-9

Key players: senior QB Robert Smith, senior strong safety Kory Collins, junior running back Grant Swinney, senior defensive tackle Luis Aquino, junior safety Ryan Kraw, junior offensive tackle Adam Fountain (6-1, 215), junior center Chris Thorne, junior guard Richie Giesen, junior guard Renne Rodriguez, junior receiver Kevin Capellino and senior fullback/linebacker Phil Griffith.

Opener: Sept. 7 at home vs. Reed.

Key to season: Staying healthy and getting better each time they take the field.

Vikings’ 2002 football schedule

9/7 Reed Home 1:30 p.m.

9/13 McQueen Away 7:30 p.m.

9/21 Reno HS Home 1:30 p.m.

9/27 Elko Away 7:30 p.m.

10/04 Carson Away 7:30 p.m.

10/12 N. Valleys Home 1:30 p.m.

10/19 Douglas Home 1:30 p.m.

10/26 Wooster Home 1:30 p.m.

11/01 Hug Away 7:30 p.m.

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