Vikings optimistic of quick turnaround
Losing creates doubt and indifference. Those character flaws weren’t allowed to permeate the South Tahoe High football program following last year’s 1-8 season.
The Vikings rolled up their sleeves and went to work on changing the downslide that began midway through the 2004 season. With one of the more respectable football traditions in Northern Nevada – including a pair of state titles and a state runner-up finish – the Vikings are determined to return the program to respectability in 2006.
“There’s always talk that South Tahoe is a pushover … that’s our easy game. You can sense it when you talk to kids from other schools, and everyone in town says, ‘Are you gonna win this year?’ I just want to earn some respect from everybody,’ ” said senior guard Miles Wallace.
A collective commitment in the weight room and to offseason conditioning has the Vikings pointing toward making the postseason after a one-year absence.
“It’s a real possibility and everyone is ready to do it,” said two-way starting senior Chris Diana. “Everyone has put in the time that we needed.”
Not even a shakeup in the coaching ranks sidetracked the Vikings as they prepared for a possible turnaround season. Former Clayton Valley High (Concord, Calif.) assistant coach Mike Gorman took over for Nick Samaras late last month after Samaras resigned following the team’s summer camp near Yuba City.
Gorman never sought the head coaching gig during his two stints at Clayton Valley and thought he could assume a similar supporting role when he retired in the area and became a defensive assistant under Samaras last year. But when Samaras left, Gorman needed only a little prodding from the holdover assistants to take over the program.
“We’re going forward. I’m gonna do it for the kids and work my (butt) off so this program succeeds,” said Gorman, who was promoted by the school’s administration to interim head coach. “South Tahoe is going to be a great program. My wife and I love football and we have a nucleus of coaches and players who will be around for a long time.”
First-year head coaches temper their enthusiasm with modest season forecasts. Gorman sees a different picture developing in Viking Bowl in 2006.
“I’m not sugarcoating it. Tahoe has the ability this year to surprise some people,” Gorman said. “With the defense we have, the size, speed and conditioning, we have a chance to surprise a lot of people.
“Realistically, we could win five or six games. Other teams are down this year. It’s an opportunity to exploit the talent we have.”
Conditioning was emphasized in preseason workouts as the Vikings made a concerted effort to take advantage of the home field with the highest altitude in the state. Players became accustomed to running 30- and 40-yard sprints for extended periods and they even took a few turns up “The Hill” that made Tim Jaureguito’s small troops successful back in the early 1990s.
“We’ve done so much running and nobody has even quit yet, so I feel a lot better about this year,” Diana said.
Diana, last year’s regular quarterback, will shift to halfback as the Vikings make a complete conversion to the Wing-T. Last spring, Nevada Union coach Dave Humphers helped the Vikings implement the offense, which relies on misdirection, blocking angles, play-action passes, sweeps and traps.
At the controls of the Wing-T will be junior Tony Stagnaro, who didn’t play football last year. Diana welcomed the switch.
“It will work both ways, because Tony is a good quarterback … he’s fast and he can throw, and I think it will work for me because I can run,” Diana said.
Competing for time at fullback are Elliot Pekar and Shane Jones. Jones has showed incredible strength in the offseason, squatting 550 pounds and benching 425, according to Gorman.
All of the preseason running will serve the offensive linemen well as they will be counted on to pull and block away from the man over them. Penciled in on the strong side of the line are tackle Oscar Navarro (240), guard Wallace (200), while manning the weak side are guard Anthony Barton (195) and 230-pound tackle Jon Fagot, one of two sophomores starters. At center is 190-pounder Nick Pavone, and 6-foot-4 Cody Reeder (230) will get the nod at tight end.
“We’re finally a little bit deep,” Wallace said. “Last year we had an all right line, but once one of us got injured they had to move us around and try to fill the (spots).
“I have a lot more confidence in everybody else on the team. The biggest part was the trust between who was going to do whose job. When I’m downfield is the person behind me gonna be doing their job? The confidence is there this year. That is one of the biggest factors that is gonna make us better.”
Beneficiaries of the play-action passes will be receivers Lee Williams, Kevin Lucero, Jake Fonken and Chris Klug. Klug is the Vikings’ only other sophomore starter and he will be one of at least three two-way players.
Optimism is high on the defensive side of the ball as the Vikings have size unfamiliar to the program. Across an intimidating defensive front are Cory Wells, 6-5 and 210; A.J. Geary 6-5 and 280; Clerance Grey, 6-2 and 297; Harvey Gunderson, 6-7 and 280; and Ceasar Ortega, 6-1, 210.
“They can block passes, they can stop runs, they can do anything. The line is bigger than I’ve ever seen,” said Diana, who has moved from outside to inside linebacker.
Pekar will also see double duty as a linebacker and Klug will play cornerback in the Vikings’ 4-4 scheme.
South Tahoe has a tough assignment in its season opener, a Sept. 1 road game at Galena. The Grizzlies advanced to the Northern 4A semifinals before vainly battling McQueen to a 28-21 verdict a year ago.
But the Vikings are ready to change the perception about their program.
“You always want to win every game, but we just want everybody to know who plays us that we’re in a game. We want them to hurt after they hit us,” Wallace said.
Coach: Mike Gorman (first year)
2005 record: 1-8
Returning players: 19
Opener: Sept. 1 at Galena
2006 STHS football schedule
Date Opponent Time
Sept. 1 @ Galena 7:30 p.m.
Sept 9 Fallon 1:30 p.m.
Sept 16 DAMONTE 1:30 p.m.
Sept 21 @ Reno 7:30 p.m.
Sept 30 WOOSTER 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 @ Douglas 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 CARSON 1:30 p.m
Oct. 20 @ North Valleys 7:30 p.m.
Oct 28 HUG 1:30 p.m.
Note: Home games are in ALL CAPS.