The Vikings return several players at key positions from last season's 5-5 playoff team.
Colton senior linebacker Scott-Michael Germany hopes the Vikings can return to the OSAA Class 3A high school football playoffs this season and have a more enjoyable experience than they did a year ago.
The Vikings got thumped 49-0 by Santiam Christian in the first round of the 2013 playoffs in Corvallis and the sting of that loss still lingers.
It was nice to get to the playoffs, Germany said. That was our goal. But to be sent home the way that we were was terrible. It was embarrassing. We went there not thinking anything of it, and by halftime guys were saying, Im ready to go home.
We were just so lost. It left a disgusting taste in our mouths. You work so hard to get there, and then to just fall flat on your face Well try to go back again with the guys that we have and see if we can do better. If we get sent home again, hopefully well go out with a fight rather than just getting slammed on.
The Vikings return starters at several key positions from last seasons 5-5 playoff team, but they also have some holes to fill following the graduation of quarterback Drexler Hall, running back Rhedyn Stanczyk, right tackle Nick Finch, and six other seniors.
Options up front
As fall practice officially got underway Monday, the Vikings were tinkering with different combinations up front that included returning starters Michael Gunther, Hunter Poet, Cameron Stansfield and Germany, along with Hunter Haines, Keaton Phillips, Conner Smith and Will Wimsatt.
At the skill positions, Thomas Stone and Chris Norris expect to see significant time at running back and Kyver Raasch will undoubtedly hold down one of the wide receiver positions, but there is a question mark at quarterback.
Right now, theres a four-way battle for the quarterback job that includes seniors Jacob Imdieke and Austin McKinney, junior Dustin Jones, and incoming freshman Dawson Hall.
The consensus is that Imdieke will most likely emerge as the starter for the Sept. 5 opener at Taft, but could eventually give way to Jones, who has some eligibility issues to work through before hes ready to play. McKinney will probably end up as a running back and Dawson Hall will start at QB for the junior varsity.
Regardless of how the quarterback situation unfolds, Imdieke said the team already enjoys a strong sense of camaraderie, which he sees as a team strength.
Weve got a lot guys who are really positive and we work really well together, Imdieke said. I dont know how well well play in a game yet, but we definitely have a fun team with a lot of guys who like to have fun.
I like how close we all are. Were kind of like a family.
Others on the team made similar assessments.
I see us being pretty good, said Raasch, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound junior wide receiver/defensive tackle. We have a lot of potential. We have quite a few returning players and we have pretty good team chemistry. All of us get along real well, and I think thats important for any team. Were pretty athletic, too.
The Vikings are switching leagues this seasons, going from the West Valley League to the PacWest Conference.
The good news is that the Vikings no longer have to butt heads with Dayton and Horizon Christian. The bad news is they now must deal with perennial powers Blanchet Catholic and Scio.
We left a good league, but were still in a good league, McKinney said. I think we have a good shot for second or third, for sure, but Blanchet Catholic and Scio are probably going to be pretty good, so it could be tough making it back to the playoffs.
Vikings coach Dan Leighton said the emphasis from now until the Aug. 29 jamboree at North Marion will be on two things intensity and focus.
Thats been our message all summer, Leighton said. These kids got a taste last year of what the state playoffs are like and they really, really were proud of themselves in being able to making it to state, especially coming out of a very tough league with Dayton and Horizon Christian.
Then to have such a poor performance at state, that left a real bitter taste in their mouths and they dont want to experience that again.
Weve got some seniors that are pretty stoked and the message is pretty clear. Our motto this year is: Leave it on the field. Well see what happens.