When people picture youth, they see enthusiasm, stamina, excitement and energy. And that’s exactly what this year’s La Jolla High School Vikings varsity football squad promises. The team is comprised predominantly of juniors, with a handful of seniors and sophomores.
The self-proclaimed “band of brothers” held a season kick-off barbecue Aug. 15 at Muirlands Middle School, where they scrimmaged to show families and supporters what to expect this season. Head coach Jason Carter said the varsity Vikings will focus on staying strong from start to finish, playing to their strengths and trusting each other.
“It’s going to be an interesting season,” coach Carter said. “We lost a lot of seniors (last year), so we’re replacing them with juniors and sophomores, so we’re young and we’re scrappy.”
The strategy this year is focusing on the finish. “Last season, we had one of the best teams to come through La Jolla, but we didn’t always (play with consistent energy to) finish games. We would get to the fourth quarter strong, oftentimes ahead, but wouldn’t finish with a win. This season we are focusing on finishing strong and winning games,” he said. In past games, the Vikings would be up by 10 points or more, but lose steam. During a game in last year’s playoffs, La Jolla was up 24-17 at halftime, but lost it in the end. “If it’s third down and nine (yards), they need to push through and get the play and not give up,” Carter added.
As has been the case since Carter took the helm in 2013, the team will undergo extensive strength and conditioning training to build endurance so they can push through to finish games on top.
Playing to the strengths of a younger and comparatively undersized team, senior quarterback Casey Brown said the offensive players have “speed, heart and a love for the game.”
Added senior wide receiver and kicker Trenton Fudge, “We have a new energy because all these young guys love to play. They are really fired up and enthusiastic.”
On defense, senior running back and free safety Jonathan Levenson said, typically, a team relies on its biggest players to physically block their opponents, but this year’s varsity will instead use defensive plays that are more strategic and “cause mayhem.” He added that a lot of the players are skilled in their positions and each Viking is an asset to the team.
The evident camaraderie was part of a deliberate effort to build a family dynamic. For the first time this year, the team went to a training camp in Big Bear to learn each other’s strengths.
“It was a great bonding experience,” Fudge said. “We learned we could trust each other more and became better friends, which I think is going to help us this season. We know that we can count on each other to have our backs. We know they will do their job, so we can do ours.”
Senior outside linebacker Jesus Manzano agreed, “We’re a real band of brothers and we’ll fight for each other. There will be times in the season when we will be down so that camaraderie will give us a reason to fight and that will help us be successful.”
Due to ongoing construction at La Jolla High School’s athletic field, the Vikings will not have a “home field,” but often play at Mission Bay High School or La Jolla Country Day School.
Although the opening game is 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28 at host La Jolla Country Day School, the game most players are looking forward to is the crosstown rival game against The Bishop’s School Knights. That match will be 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4 at Mission Bay High School.