As coach Nolan Yates enters the upcoming season at the head of the
Vinton County Football Program, the third-year coach says great work
ethic and a cohesive chemistry are the main reasons for optimism. A
year ago, a pair of one-possession road losses at Nelsonville-York and
Belpre were all that stood in the way of a Tri-Valley Conference title.
As coach Nolan Yates enters the upcoming season at the head of the Vinton County Football Program, the third-year coach says great work ethic and a cohesive chemistry are the main reasons for optimism. A year ago, a pair of one-possession road losses at Nelsonville-York and Belpre were all that stood in the way of a league title, and now the maroon and white turn the page to 2008 where their current roster contains 17 seniors that are eager to become a major part in this year’s Tri-Valley Conference’s Ohio Division.
“In terms of expectations, we try not to put a number out there in terms of wins or losses,” said Yates. “At this point, we are looking for 100-percent effort with an emphasis on execution. To this point, I feel really good about where we are at as a team. The effort has been outstanding, and I feel like the kids concentration level as been good as well.”
A big part of the great chemistry comes from Vinton County’s quarterback Andy Grillo who takes over due to the graduation of Ryan Stewart. Grillo is a three-sport athlete that has great quickness, an accurate arm, and an uncanny ability to make plays when his team needs it the most. So far this preseason, Yates has been impressed with how Grillo has led the offense.
“He has been outstanding with his decision-making and his leadership,” Yates said of his junior signal-caller. “He has the respect of all his teammates. This team really responds to him, and I like the way he takes charge in the huddle.”
Joining Grillo in the backfield is a variety of running backs that give the Vikings a unique ground game – a running game that will use several people to replace the graduation of last year’s featured back in Nick Hurne. Senior Anthony Bentley is a speedy back and he is complemented by a trio of bigger backs that can really pound the ball between the tackles. Quentin Rhodes, Ryan Saya, and Kyle Madison give Coach Yates a variety of options in short yardage and goal line situations.
Another reason Grillo and the other Viking ball carriers should enjoy a successful year on the ground is the solid offensive line that returns for Vinton County. The Vikings did lose Aaron Puckett, Derek Woltz, and tight end Dustin Guthrie up front; however, the return of Dillon Guthrie, Tyler East, Bubba Owings, Jeremy Starr, Brendan Shipman, Adam Jarvis, Trent Mercer and Derek Bentley not only give the Vikings great experience in the trenches but also great depth.
“It definitely can be,” said Coach Yates when asked if he felt the line could be his offense’s strength. “I really like the depth we have in terms of our backs, and I think our line can be the same way. We have a lot of guys working hard, and I think we will get some contributions from a lot of different people.”
Many of the same linemen will play up front defensively as well. They will be joined by Tommy Hale and Trent Thomas. The linebacking core is led by middle linebacker in freshman Luke Thomas as well Steven Thompson and Calvin Beckley. Dakota Johnson will join Bentley in the defensive secondary, and a huge lift for the Viking defense comes from the return of senior cornerbacks Adam Ward and Brandon Clark which will help fill the hole left by the graduation of Ben Beatty.
The core of the Vinton County special teams return as well. Jarvis will take on the place-kicking duties and Tyler Dutcher returns as the punter.
Vinton County’s non-league schedule takes the Vikings to several neighboring conferences. The Vikings go on the road in weeks one and three to Unioto and Jackson, respectively, while hosting Bloom Carroll in week two and Waverly in week four. Weeks five through 10 will have the Vikings playing in-conference with road games at Athens (week five), at Wellston (week six), and at Belpre (week eight), while playing homes game against Meigs (week seven), Alexander (week nine), and Nelsonville-York (week 10).
“To look at our roster, we do not have a bunch of heights and weights that jump out as amazing,” said Coach Yates. “What we do have is a group of kids that really like one another and a group of guys that really like to compete.”
Last season – a brutal non-league schedule, as well as the before mentioned league losses – made for a frustrating 4-6 overall finish (3-2 in TVC Ohio) for the Vikings. The finish had Vinton County way out of the Division III, Region 12 playoffs and just off a TVC-Ohio title. The Vikings definitely graduated some gifted athletes; however, the return of several seniors along with great chemistry will certainly have football fans in McArthur watching optimistically in 2008.