“Obviously Nelsonville is the team to beat when you consider the tradition that they have continued to build,” Yates said. “I also think Meigs, a team that went 7-3 and has a boat load of talent back, will be tough. This league will be very competitive this year, and we are going to have to be ready to go every week.”
Yates was an all-district football player at Vinton County in the early 1990s and he was a member of the 1993 squad that went 10-2 losing to Ironton in overtime in a regional final. This was part of a great football tradition at Vinton County that included five TVC titles during that decade; however a 2004 playoff appearance is the only major success the Vikings have been able to muster since their 1999 league title. The Vikings impressive run during the 1990s is something Yates hopes to rekindle in McArthur during the 2007 campaign.
“We have a lot of seniors back this year and so far they have been working hard,” said Yates, who is entering his 10th season overall as a member of the Vinton County coaching staff.
Vinton County, a member of Division III, Region 12, was led by a solid defense a year ago that really helped the Vikings stay in just about every game. That unit returns a lot of experience and athleticism. Defensive coordinator Brian Dunn will look to a pair of returning All-Ohioans – senior safety Ben Batey and senior lineman Aaron Puckett – as well as, a pair of All-District performers – senior defensive end Dustin Guthrie and senior cornerback Ryan Stewart – to lead the defense. Dunn will also have the luxury of leadership in the middle of the Viking defense thanks to a senior laden linebacking crew led by hard-hitting Derek Woltz.
On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Jason Waugh will enjoy quite a bit of experience as well. The Vikings return senior running back Nick Hurne, who in 2006 ended just shy of the 1,000-yard mark, and great depth at the receiver spots led by Beatty. Although the Vikings do have a few holes to fill up front, Yates is confident that Woltz and Puckett will anchor a group that will be extremely tough and hard working. Vinton County also is helped by Guthrie’s versatility. The 6-5 senior tight-end not only gives the Vikings a nice big, sure-handed target over the middle, but at 245 pounds, he also provides some solid run-blocking that should help Hurne and the other Vinton County ball carriers turn the corner and produce big yardage in the running game.
“Marcus Games (line coach), Dusty Ward (secondary/WR coach), and Chris Hayes (JV coach) all do a great job,” Yates said. “Even though we have some spots where we need some young guys to step up, I feel like we have the coaching staff and the senior leadership to make the transition easier for some of the new guys.”
The final piece of what should be an improved Viking offense will come with the decision at quarterback. Yates is looking at several options, and all the candidates will help the Vikings – if not under center – at various skill positions. Stewart, an extremely gifted athlete that can really make plays with his feet, started in six games a year ago. Senior Matt Yates, who also is a member of the senior linebacking core, started the other four weeks, and would probably fit the mold of being more of the conventional drop-back, pocket-passer. Possibly the candidate with the best balance of the run-pass option is sophomore Andy Grillo. However, Grillo lacks the experience of taking varsity snaps under Friday lights. Yates also mentioned that junior Anthony Bentley has taken some snaps. Bentley is a speedster wide out that when not playing the role of signal-caller should supply some big-play capabilities in the Viking passing game.
“We have some different options at quarterback,” Yates said. “Each guy brings something different to the table. All four guys are going to be a big part of what we do throughout the year; it’s just a matter of getting people in the right place to make us the best team possible.”
Vinton County will start the season with a brutal, five-week non-conference schedule that includes road games at Gallia Academy and Waverly in weeks 2 and 4, respectively. The Vikings do get three of these out-of-conference games at home with its toughest test coming in Week 3 when D-II Jackson visits.
Week 6, will mark the start of TVC play and VC will travel to Nelsonville-York, where the Vikings will try to get an early leg-up on the Buckeyes, who have won the TVC title the last four years. The Vikings will host Albany Alexander in Week 7 and arch-rival Wellston in Week 10; however, Vinton County has brutal back-to-back road tests in weeks 8 and 9 when it travels to Belpre and Pomeroy Meigs.
“We hope we can get off to a good start and give ourselves a chance to improve,” Yates said. “(Being .500) is a start, but it isn’t where we want to be. Hopefully, this is the year we can turn the corner.”
|8/31/2007||@ Gallipolis Gallia Academy||4|
|10/19/2007||@ Pomeroy Meigs||4|