As exciting as it is to take the field for the first time in a football season, for the La Jolla High School Vikings the excitement is tenfold because of the field itself. The La Jolla High School athletic complex has been under construction for more than a year, so the Vikings did not get a single home game last season. But this year, the field is scheduled to host the blast-off game 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 versus Hilltop High School.
The lack of a home facility for games and practices, coupled with new coaches and new strategies, has contributed to what new coach Matt Morrison is calling “a year of transition” for the Vikings. But nevertheless, the guys are excited to start the season and give it their all.
“Our team motto is 100-100 which means we give 100 percent of our effort in 100 percent of things we do,” said coach Morrison. “Whether we’re playing a team that’s 10-0 or 0-10 we just want to show up and give our best effort.”
To ease the transition, players and coaching staff have spent the summer getting to know each other and working together. “I think for the players to trust us, they need to get to know us. I’m happy that the kids are buying into what we’re trying to teach and what we’re trying to build,” he said.
Additionally, this year’s Viking squad is senior heavy, which provides consistency and experience. “We have really strong senior leadership … we’ve got 21 seniors, a lot of whom have some great past experience,” Morrison explained. “A lot of seniors were hurt last year, so the juniors of last year were able to get some playing time. They struggled last year because they are young, but we’re relying on some of that experience to get this year off to a good start.”
Chiefly, Morrison said the team “hangs our hat on” seniors Daniel McColl and Dane Hansen, both with several years on the varsity team and a focus on defense this year. On offense, players to watch include Alex Dockery, Tanner Watson and Cole Dimich.
Regardless of the now-seniors history on the team, coaching staff is testing players in different positions to see how they could best contribute to the team. So just because someone was a receiver last year, doesn’t mean that is the spot they will hold this year. “We want to evaluate these players ourselves and not rely on what someone told us or the player’s reputation and build our own understanding of each kid,” he said.
“We want to spread the ball to a lot of different guys … that’s what your better teams are able to, they have a lot of ways to hurt you. It’s not just one receiver or one guy carrying the ball, it’s a lot of weapons,” Morrison said. “At the end of the year, when you look at our statistics and our breakdown, you’re going to see a pretty widespread balance in terms of our offensive production. With that, we’re going to be a much harder team to defend against.”
But for now, the Viking defense slightly edges out its offense. “We pursue the ball well, we leverage the ball well. The run the ball hard and know how to play together as a unit,” Morrison said. “So right now, our biggest emphasis is to become the best tackling team we can be, so that’s what we’ve worked on every day. Offensively, we’re getting better, but we’re not where we need to be yet.”
With experience playing and coaching offense and defense, Morrison is a San Diego native and joined the Vikings in March. He spent the last two years coaching at La Costa Canyon High School. The year before that, he coached wide receivers in Hawaii. The seven years prior to that, he coached alongside his father John Morrison at Francis Parker High School, his alma mater.
“My dad was the head coach at Parker for almost 20 years, so I played for him before I graduated in 2005 and after a year of college football, coached with him for seven years,” he said.
While at Francis Parker, he recalled playing against The Bishop’s School and seeing the state of the Vikings former field. “It was in bad shape – the lines were gone so you had no idea if you were in bounds or out of bounds. It was definitely time for a replacement, so my timing was impeccable,” he joked.
Although he is more focused on the start and progression of the season right now, Morrison said, “When we look back at the end of the season, we’ll be pretty happy with how things turned out.”
Games are $7, free for students with a SAC sticker on their ID, and ages 65 and older. JV takes the field at 3:30 p.m. the day of each varsity game.
6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 vs. Hilltop High School
6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 vs. La Jolla Country Day
6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 vs. Coronado High School
6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23 vs. Mater Dei Catholic School
6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 vs. Serra High School
6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28 vs. University City High School
To formally open the new athletic complex at 750 Nautilus St., a ribbon-cutting will be held before the Viking’s Homecoming Game: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 vs. Serra High School.