Lukas Moore --
Most coaches tell the media that their goal to start the season is to win the conference. But, new Vikings coach Travis Bethel decided to keep it real, "Vinton County has not had a winning season in 15 years, so to hit that 6-4 or better mark is our goal, then compete for the TVC," he said. It's a refreshing splash of realism from Bethel, who was a member of the last Viking TVC championship in 1999. He brings a balanced coaching staff and is establishing an entire new system on both offense and defense.
Bethel had his staff selected before he was even hired by Vinton County, and he takes over a program primed for a culture change. The Vikings have consistently found ways to lose games, the collapse against Minford a season ago was a prime example. How about the excruciating loss to Nelsonville-York in week nine two seasons ago; Vikings fans assuredly remember then-sophomore Keegan Wilburn catching a last second touchdown at Boston Field.
The first step for Bethel and his staff is eliminating the types of losses that make Vikings fans yearn for basketball season. After watching the Vikings in practice, they'll have a good chance at the TVC-Ohio title, and an even better chance at their first winning season in 15 years.
What we already knew
The Vikings return one of the more exciting throwers in the TVC in Braylon Damron. As a freshman Damron tossed for more yardage than Viking legend Naylan Yates did his freshman season, and Damron didn't start from day one. Damron grew 2.5 inches in the offseason and now sits at a healthy six foot one. The ball zips out of his hand with accuracy and precision, putting him right with any quarterback the conference has to offer in terms of arm talent.
Bethel feels that Damron has some strides to make in the mental game, but will entrust the sophomore with a shotgun-based system. In fact, Bethel seemed more ready to hand the keys to his sophomore gunslinger than David Tennant was with Coulter Cleland. The Vikings have been known as a run-first team, that era may be over with Braylon Damron.
What we learned
The Vikings are the tallest team on the line in the TVC. It helps they added six foot two Boomer Herrold, who will start at tackle in his first season for Vinton County. Bethel seems to be favoring longer athletes over big hogs up front. This fits a pass-first system well, long arms help occupy space and keep pass rushers in front. Add in the best center in the TVC in Nick Pittman and I think the Vikings will have one of the better fronts in the conference.
Running behind that front will primarily be Jacob Wells. Although Logan Baker has more experience in the backfield, his running style is better suited in packages with the quarterback under center. The Vikings are going to be in the shotgun a lot, leaving Wells as the better option to handle the ball and relegating Baker to a bruising lead blocker. Keep an eye out for the speedy Elijah Williams, who can run stride-for-stride with Keegan Wilburn, to be an impact ball carrier for the Vikings.
The Vikings have also committed to conditioning harder than in the past. Bethel mentioned he thought the team looked tired early in the season a year ago, but assured me that won't be a problem in 2019. The Vikings have always played with an edge, but carrying that edge into second halves might be the key to success in 2019.
What we still don't know
The big question mark regarding the Vikings is if they'll have reliable threats on the perimeter. No one pops off the page on the practice field outside of the super-fast Elijah Williams, who will work out of the slot. If the Vikings want to find success in '19 Damron will need his pass catchers to actually catch. If they find that, the Vikings have all the pieces for a successful season.