Vikings optimistic headed to Wooster
The South Tahoe football team likes how it matches up with Wooster — and likes its chances of victory as a result. The Vikings face the Colts on the road Friday night, and hope to leave Reno with their first victory of the 2014 season.
“I think we can come out with a win,” Vikings tight end/linebacker Stone Merkley said. “We’re having good practices this week with lots of energy, all of our guys believe and we’re all hungry for that first win.”
Both teams come in looking for their first league win — Wooster has lost four straight since opening the season with a victory over winless Silver State Academy (Yerington, Nev.). Against common opponents, the Vikings and Colts have delivered similar results — a narrow defeat to Spring Creek with lopsided losses to Fallon and Lowry.
“I like the way it looks for us — we’re going in that direction,” Vikings head coach Kevin Hennessee said.
On both sides of the ball, turnovers will be key to Friday night’s contest. Last week at Lowry, South Tahoe turned the ball over seven times and only got one takeaway.
“We need to get the turnover differential to flip — instead of giving up seven, we need to get one or two back our way,” Hennessee said. “We need to get some takeaways — in the games we’ve been competitive in, we’ve done that.”
Offensively, South Tahoe will again try to establish its ground game Friday night after rushing for 25 yards last week. The Vikings will look to spread the ball between its main weapons against Wooster — Merkley, running backs Dylan Garnder and Quinton Ritter, and receivers Kirby David, Brandon Erickson, Zach Shearer and Will Mori.
STHS quarterback Mason Cain has thrown for a league-leading 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. The yards have been there for South Tahoe’s offense this season — but the points have been another story.
“We have to move the ball and finish in the red zone — that has been our problem,” Vikings receiver/defensive back Corey McCarthy said.
When Wooster has the ball, its offense will look similar to South Tahoe’s — the Colts have been more effective in the air than on the ground so far this season and don’t have a ton of size in the trenches. Quarterback Hunter Triplett (837 yards, 13 touchdowns) leads a unit that will be boosted by the return of receiver Mark Valero from suspension.
“We have to get low, break down and not overpursue — stay home,” McCarthy said.
The performance of South Tahoe’s defensive front seven will be crucial on Friday night. The group that includes Erickson, Jade Tate, and Luke Garratt up front with Merkley, Gardner, Cameron Montanari and Andrew Herrera at linebacker has to play well for the Vikings’ defense to stop the Colts.
“We want to be able to stop the run, and when they throw the ball we need to bring pressure,” Hennessee said. “Our front seven is the biggie for us — those guys need to have a game.”
After a pair of subpar weeks, South Tahoe’s defense will look to get back on track against Wooster. Vikings’ practices this week included more hitting than normal in an effort to bring back the physicality the unit played with in single-digit losses to Spring Creek and Fernley.
South Tahoe matches up well with Wooster on both sides of the ball, and will take the field against the Colts Friday night optimistic for a first victory. The Vikings will need their first complete performance of the season in order to end the game on the right side of the scoreboard.
“We’ve played three-and-a-half quarters of great football against almost every team and we just can’t finish,” Merkley said. “It’s the little things that count — every single play matters because that’s the play that could change the game.
“Words can’t even describe how bad we need this win — it’s so necessary. We need this game to get rolling — we need one to get two.”