Vikings ready for liftoff in new coaching era
Following a 90-minute scrimmage with 2000 state finalist Wooster on Saturday, South Tahoe High football coach Eric Beavers learned how much character his first Viking team possessed.
While their guests were enjoying the delights of an annual postscrimmage barbecue, Beavers’ Vikings were dutifully fulfilling their quota of 10 100-meter sprints under a broiling late-summer sun before shuffling off to the weight room for strength conditioning.
“These guys are really committed to paying a price,” said Beavers, the former star quarterback at the University of Nevada in the mid-1980s. “When I came up here, and I’ve always said it, these guys practice hard and do everything you ask them to do on the field. We just felt that we could do that in the weight room as well. If we just ask them to do it, will they do it? And they really have responded.”
Although he’s playing a new position, junior quarterback Brandon Tinlin feels more physically prepared for the upcoming season than he did a year ago.
“The shape I was in three-quarters of the way through last season, I’m in that shape before the season even starts,” Tinlin said. “It’s a great way to start the program, the way he’s doing it. Last year, we weren’t lifting before practice. It’s going to keep us up with the better teams at the end of the season. We’re a lot tougher than last year. Last year, we whined.”
No whining? Not even with the graduation of one of the most explosive offenses in the state a year ago. Gone are nearly 5,000 yards from first-team all-region quarterback Jarred Uppendahl (school-record 2,403 yards and 26 TD passes), receiver Immanuel Williams (1,042 yards, 16 TDs, 49 receptions) and running back Jake Hurwitz (1,445 yards).
Aside from senior tackle Jake Bobman, Beavers must also replace the entire offensive line. With Garrett McIntyre, who made first-team all-region at linebacker last year, doubling up to play tight end, the line will have more strength and size than in past years.
“We’re not as fast as last year, but we’ll get the job done,” Tinlin said.
Joining McIntyre and Bobman, first-team all-division last year, on the O-line are senior guards Bobby Maxwell and Nick Alexander, senior center Jeff Baker and senior tackle Aaron Christensen.
Until the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Tinlin becomes more comfortable reading defenses, a task he hasn’t done regularly since his freshman season, Beavers may have to rely on a power running game.
“Brandon doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s very coachable … he’s relaxed … he learns quickly and he’s willing to admit when he makes a mistake, and he just wants to correct it,” Beavers said. “Obviously, he’s the size of quarterback that could move on and play at the next level. I think he will be difficult to bring down, and as he gets better, obviously, he has the vision and that is going to be more to his advantage.”
Tinlin threw four touchdown passes in the Wooster scrimmage, including two to senior Travis Van Arnum. Juniors Keenan Wallace and Robert Smith are expected to fill the other two receiver spots in the Vikings’ spread offense.
“They don’t have the speed and explosiveness of the guys that we had last year, but I think they’re more physical than the guys that we had last year,” Beavers said.
For the past two years, Hurwitz has been a threat to go the distance each time he carried the pigskin. Without him, the Vikings will employ the power running of senior Larry Reynolds and junior Phil Griffith in their one-back sets.
“They’re both doing a great job,” Beavers said. “They run hard, they can find the holes and they’ll hit it up in there.”
On defense, the Vikings boost two of the league’s best returning players in linebacker McIntyre and defensive end Justin Nixon. McIntyre is one of at least four players who will play offense and defense.
“We’ve had the luxury of being able to platoon the last few years here, but we just don’t have that luxury this year. We don’t have much depth,” Beavers said.
The 2000 first-team all-region defenders will welcome mostly new headbangers to a 4-4 front, including tackle Miguel Villenueva, outside linebackers Griffith and Reynolds, cornerback Matt Mora, free safety Todd Lee and end Bobman.
“We feel pretty good about our defense, and we’re looking at our defense and saying that’s where our leadership has to come,” Beavers said. “We feel like we have some experience back there and some pretty physical players.”
Nixon and Tinlin are battling for the placekicking duties, while Tinlin is the leading candidate to punt.
Making Beavers’ rookie season smoother and easier has been the continuity of assistants: Todd McIntyre, Mike Makley, Chris Morgan, Jim Morgan, Mike Patterson and Seth Martin.
“They’ve been the unsung reason why this program has been successful,” Beavers said. “Those guys do an incredible job and coach up their positions.”
Considering the number of star players the program lost last season, expectations aren’t very high on Viking way.
“I certainly wouldn’t say we’re a favorite, but I just don’t know who is,” Beavers said. “If we can continue to (pay the price) , we can give it a run as we move into the late season.”
Tinlin, for one, has no doubt that the Vikings are in store for a good season.
“We’re going to surprise some people this year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of talent, but we need to keep lifting and running as hard as we are.”
Coach: Eric Beavers, first year (assistant past two years at STHS)
Returning starters: 2 on offense, 3 on defense.
Last season: 8-3, lost to eventual state champion McQueen in regional semifinals.
Quote: “These guys are really committed to paying a price. If we can continue to do that, we can give it a run as we move into the late season,” coach Beavers.
Opener: Friday at Reed
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Strong wind has led to multiple power outages Tuesday morning and a pair of Lake Tahoe ski resorts will not open due to the strong gusts.