Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:41am
Football 2012: Another year, another step forward for Vikings
By Morgan Lee Editor
RABBITTOWN -- The last five years haven’t been easy for East Hall football, but the Vikings have seen plenty of improvement on the way to last season’s 5-5 record.
This season East Hall is ready to take yet another step forward.
“We saw a lot of promise (last year),” Vikings coach Bryan Gray said. “We’re just continuing to learn the mental part of football. We have to keep fighting and get over the fear of expectation.”
Gray sees plenty of reason for optimism in 2012, including an athletic team that returns a bevy of tested players -- due in large part to the injury bug that bit the Vikings hard in 2011.
“We have some depth and that gives me encouragement,” Gray said. “A lot of that is because we had so many guys play last year due to injuries. We’ve got about 45-50 guys that were on last year’s team, and they’ve all improved.”
That depth has led to a number of position battles for the Vikings, including at quarterback where senior Zach Groover -- who missed all of 2011 with an injury -- is going toe-to-toe with sophomore Devin Watson for the starting spot.
Whoever nabs the position will be at the helm of an athletic offense that will run out of multiple sets in order to take advantage of its depth and experience.
“A lot of the kids on offense are two-three year veterans, and we’re trying to accent their strengths,” Gray said. “We’re even going to run some wishbone. We’re really able to spread the ball around and be more diverse.”
That is due in large part to a strong running back corps led by junior fullback Edward Vergara. The receiving corps will be led by junior Isaac Mize and Milton Welchel.
The offensive line returns three starters in Braden Jarrard, J.D. Holloway and Devonte’ Benton.
“We’re younger overall on the offensive line, but we’re also bigger,” Gray said.
The Vikings defense also features plenty of experience, including eight returning starters. The strength of the group will likely be at the linebacker position, where George Hernandez, Schqwon Tanner and Dustin Rogers all return.
Benton and Cody Andrews should anchor the defensive line, while Gray says the Vikings are “three deep” at each of the defensive back positions.
East Hall is still trying to settle on a placekicker for the season, though Junior Lee will return at punter.
“These guys have a real bond and unity,” Gray said. “And we have people that want to hit now. We’ve had to create hitters for so long that it’s really nice to have that.”
East Hall knows that moving up to Region 7-AAA will present a challenge, taking on a state powerhouse in Buford as well as previous Class AAA playoff teams in North Hall and White County.
“It’s a power-run region now; there are no spread teams out there anymore (as in Region 8-AA),” Gray said. “I think the region got a whole lot tougher.”
That said, the Vikings are eager for the challenge ahead and ready to see if they can take yet another step forward in the rebuilding process -- begun when Gray took over the program six years ago.
EAST HALL: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Black and Gold
CURRENT REGION: 7-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Bryan Gray, sixth season, 11-39
2011 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-5
KEY LOSSES: OL/DL C.J. White, RB Jamond Witt, S T.D. Teasley, RB/LB Carlos Negron
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- East Hall will incorporate a number of elements into its attack, including the wishbone
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Jr. RB Edward Vergara, Sr. QB Zach Groover, So. QB Devin Watson, 3 offensive line starters, Jr. WR Isaac Mize
DEFENSIVE STYLE: Multiple -- With eight starters back, the Vikings will be able to do a number of things and feature a strong linebacking corps.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. DT Devonte' Benton, Sr. DL Cody Andrews, Sr. MLB Dustin Rodgers, Jr. OLB Jorge Hernandez, Sr. LB Schqwon Tanner
SPECIAL TEAMS: So. P Junior Lee; PK still to be determined as of publication time
STRENGTH: Attitude -- Gray says he used to have to find hitters, now he’s forced to keep his players from going overboard during practices thanks to an aggressive and competitive unit.
QUESTION: Mental ability to close games -- East Hall has taken huge strides over the past few seasons they hope to show they’re ready to take that final step toward the postseason in 2012.
KEY GAMES: East Hall opens the Region 7-AAA schedule with three straight tests, two of which come on the road. The Vikings head to White County (Sept. 28) and then come back to face North Hall (Oct. 5). Do well in that stretch and East Hall will be in the forefront of the postseason race.
TRENDING: After three straight 1-9 seasons and taking some lumps at the beginning of his time in charge, Gray has led East Hall out of the wilderness, building the program from the bottom up. The Vikings have moved up in classification but hope to make those transitions pay off this year with their first winning record since 2005.
Aug. 24 at Dawson County
Aug. 31 at Chattooga
Sept. 14 vs. East Jackson
Sept. 21 vs. Johnson
Sept. 28 at White County
Oct. 5 vs. North Hall
Oct. 19 vs. West Hall
Oct. 26 at Banks County
Nov. 2 vs. Buford
Nov. 9 at Fannin County
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