Summer success: South Tahoe football delivers 7-on-7 championship at Lake Tahoe Football Camp
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe football team has played with confidence in 7-on-7 competition throughout the summer. And the Vikings now have hardware to match their high level of play.
South Tahoe won the 7-on-7 championship during Lake Tahoe Football Camp’s second session in a tournament held June 28-29 at Viking Stadium. The Vikings’ road to the title included a pair of wins over Desert Oasis (Las Vegas) and Winters (Calif.) before beating Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.) for the crown.
“The kids are more confident in what they’re doing,” Vikings coach Louis Franklin said. “It’s less thinking, more playing and they’re playing faster. There’s less doubt to what they’re doing and you obviously get a better product when you do that.”
In its first season under Franklin, South Tahoe finished 4-6 in 2015 — its most wins since the 2012 season. Now the Vikings are in their first full offseason with Franklin, and the team has had a confident feel during the summer months.
“More than anything, it’s about developing a confidence that I thought we could have instilled quicker last year,” Franklin said. “We’re changing the culture of lower expectations — being surprised when you’re winning instead of being confident and finishing when you’re winning.
“Most of the skill guys have experienced a lot of success now, so the expectations are a lot higher than they were last year. The kids that have been showing up all summer have seen that they can compete with some of the biggest teams in California.”
The Vikings return a talented core of skill players with varsity experience, including rising senior Tommy Cefalu at quarterback. As a junior last season, the first-team all-Div. I-A Northern League selection threw for 2,225 yards and 21 touchdowns in nine starts — and Franklin said he has played near-flawlessly in 7-on-7 competition.
“He’s been lights out all summer and he’s taking care of the ball,” Franklin said. “It’s nice to be able to have the confidence in your quarterback that he’s going to make big plays and capitalize when defenses make a mistake.”
South Tahoe’s passing attack features two of its top three receivers from last season — rising seniors Zen Contestable and Noah Jackson — along with rising senior Robert Cage. Incoming senior Dylan Gooding and junior Matt Cain lined up in the backfield offensively along with rising junior Jakob Costley.
“When you have the weapons we have, you take what the defense gives you and good things usually happen,” Franklin said. “For most of these kids, it’s the second year in the offense.”
Defensively, Gooding and rising senior Tyler Ritter roamed the secondary from their safety positions for South Tahoe — who largely contained the opposition during the tournament. On both sides of the ball, the Vikings had speed and strength match their opponents, and ultimately prevail.
“Some of our opponents were freakishly athletic, and we were step for step with them,” Franklin said. “Our bodies looked good compared to other teams, and a year of strength and conditioning has helped the kids that show up every day — they are getting rewarded.”
South Tahoe’s recent 7-on-7 championship was its second in as many summers at Lake Tahoe Football Camp. Franklin calls this season’s Vikings “a once-in-five-years team” in terms of talent, creating a buzz for an already anticipated 2016 campaign.
“We’re ultimately only going to be as good as our line, so it’s getting those kids to buy in,” Franklin said. “If we can just stay even [on the line], we’re going to be dangerous this year — it could be a special year.”
The Vikings will return to the field in helmets and shoulder pads during the camp’s third and final session July 13-16 along with Truckee, Canyon Springs (Las Vegas) and Kimberly (Idaho). Northern California schools Acalanes (Lafayette), Argonaut (Jackson), Modesto Christian (Modesto) and Orland will participate without pads during the third session.
“It will be another batch of really good teams coming up,” Franklin said. “We’re just trying to get better each day — it will be fun for us.”
South Tahoe opens its 2016 season Aug. 26 at Sparks — kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. All 10 of its regular season games will be Div. 3A Northern League contests.