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IMG_8498BY JEFF FALK

FREDERICKSBURG – There really isn’t all that much pressure to win at the scholastic level, and that statement is especially true in Lebanon County. But if this pressure to win exists in any high-school sport, that sport would be football.

Four years ago, Roy Wall was hired by the Northern Lebanon administration to head the Vikings’ football program. In that time, Wall’s Vikings have enjoyed some success and have done some positive things.

But in 2012, after starting 2-0, Northern Lebanon faltered and finished the season with eight consecutive losses. While it may be overstating things to label 2013 as a ‘make-or-break’ campaign, one gets the distinct impression the Vikings have reached some sort of crossroads.

“Until we get that first win, we’re in an eight-game losing stretch, and the pressure mounts,” said Wall. “We’ve got to get that first one and then go from there. We have to learn how to win. That’s a big thing for our kids, to play with confidence. We as coaches have to instill that in them.

“We tell the kids, ‘Play with confidence,'” continued Wall. ” ‘ Have confidence in your ability. Have confidence in your teammates. Do your job.’ I think they have to know how to play a level above. That’s what we got out of last year. Our motto is: ‘Play on your toes, not on your heels. Play full speed.'”

While injuries played a role in Northern Lebanon’s back slide, there were also a few contests that slipped away from the Vikes in 2012. Certainly a part of the game, those injuries affected the Vikings’ quantity and quality.

IMG_8592“My recollection of last season was that it was a very difficult year,” said Wall. “We dealt with a lot of injuries. People were put into roles they weren’t physically or mentally ready for.  In three of those losses, we were up at halftime. We just basically wore down. We had a JV team playing at the varsity level. A lot had to do with confidence, but we weren’t able to overcome adversity.

“In 2004, I had a team that went 0-12 and then went 25-3 after that,” Wall added. “We always use that as a motivating factor. We’re not turning the page. We tell them, ‘You guys were a part of it last year’. We don’t ever put it behind us.”

While there are certainly holes to fill, Northern Lebanon returns 20 letter-winners from last year’s squad. In all, Wall welcomed 34 players to summer camp.

“We have 20 guys who played some, that’s got to be a positive,” said Wall. “We have 20 people with game experience. We tell our guys, ‘You know what  it’s like.’ It’s only going to get easier for you because the game is going to slow down.

IMG_8550“We’re not real deep, but we’ comfortable with what we have,” Wall continued. “A couple of kids decided not to come out at the last minute, which was disappointing. We’ve got good skill people, but we’re lacking size. We’re not looking at quantity, we’re looking at quality.”

One of those thrust into the fire last season was quarterback Isaac Ray. Ray had ten touchdown tosses and six picks as a sophomore, but should have an even better handle on the offense, as well as his leadership duties this season.

Northern Lebanon’s running-back-by-committee approach will be headed by senior Derek DiAngelis and also feature junior Travis Gates, senior James Rhoads, versatile John Randolph, junior Dominic Trader and senior Matt Vines. The Vikings also boast two capable receivers in 6-7 senior Kyle Blackman and junior Mason Yost.

“We set our goals high,” said Wall. “Our goal is to always win the section, which we haven’t done since I’ve been here. But we take it game by game. Last year we played the best team in the section (Three of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, Garden Spot) the toughest. If we would’ve played the other teams as tough, we would have won them and been 5-5.

“Obviously no one was happy with 2-8,” Wall continued. “I’d have to look back to 2004 when one of my teams lost eight straight games. After we were 2-0, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe we have something here.’ And I had a tough year. I lost my dad and my best friend. It was just a weird year.”

What may hold the key to the Vikings’ success is their offensive line.

IMG_8600Northern Lebanon returns four linemen with experience – senior Ian Graft, junior Jacob Funck, junior Andrew Fox and sophomore George Thompson. Sophomore Damian DiAngelis, senior Dylan Sellers and sophomore Josiah Kerstetter will be plugged in along the line as needed.

“We need to protect the football,” said Wall. “Even early on when we were losing competitive games, we were not on the plus-side of turnovers. Then we started turning the ball over like crazy. It’s the only stat I care about besides the score. And the other thing is getting off the field defensively.

“If it was third-and-15, we’d give up 16 yards. If it were third-and-one, we’d give up two yards,” added Wall. “We weren’t gouged by big plays, but we were grounded by people. That’s the way we want to play. We have to be more assertive on offense. We didn’t play a lot of games where we consistently controlled the ball. We were not able to set the tempo of games.”

Up front defensively, the Vikings will be stout with Graft, Vines, Damian DiAngelis, Funck and Brett Noll-Emmick. The Vikings’ next level will be manned Derek DiAngelis, Sellers, Travis Gates, Tyler Gates and hard-working Andrew Ditzler.

Northern Lebanon’s last line of defense is stacked with Yost, Randolph, Blackman and junior Shawn Campbell.

“So far, experience-wise, we’re worlds ahead of where we were last year,” said Wall. “The approach we take is ‘It’s up to the next man standing.'” I think the kids have developed that approach. Last year, we were always playing on our heels. There wasn’t an air of confidence. This year we want to play on our toes.

IMG_8569“It is what it is,” Wall added. “We can’t do anything about depth. The kids understand that they have to play 48 minutes plus. We’re going to have to play iron-man football. We’ve adopted that hard-nosed, old-school mentality.”

Far from perfect, Wall is generally pleased with the direction the program is headed.

“Oh, yeah,” said Wall. “It was time for me to move on from Millersburg. My first five years at Millersburg, I had four losing seasons. But you have to build the foundation. The numbers are down since I got here. We’re focusing on Upper Dauphin, even though it’s our first scrimmage. That sends a message to the kids that they’re all  important. That they’re all winnable. Overall, here in the county, I’m settled and we’re on an upswing.”

IMG_8532

#

Off Pos

Def Pos

Class

Ht

Wt

Kyle Blackman*

10

SE

DB

12

6’7’’

195

Derek DiAngelis*

27

RB

LB

12

5’9’’

170

Ian Graft*

79

OL

DL

12

6’4’’

270

Tyler Gates*

2

SE

LB

12

5’8’’

170

Grant Hershey*

72

OL

DL

12

5’10’’

185

Brett Noll-Emmick*

67

OL

DL

12

6’0’’

170

James Rhoads*

21

RB

LB

12

5’7’’

168

Dylan Sellers*

42

OL/TE

LB

12

5’9’’

170

Ben Wengert

29

SE

DB

12

5’11’’

170

Shawn Campbell*

21

RB

DB

11

5’8’’

135

Andrew Deitzler*

20

SE

DB

11

6’0’’

171

Andrew  Fox*

55

OL

DL

11

6’1’’

205

Jacob Funck*

59

OL

DL

11

6’0’’

180

Travis  Gates*

5

RB

LB

11

5’9’’

175

Michael Hauck*

18

PK

11

5’10’’

190

John Randolph*

16

SE/RB

DB

11

5’11’’

170

Isaac  Ray*

4

QB

DB

11

5’11’’

179

Dominic Trader

35

RB

DB

11

6’0’’

170

Mason  Yost*

81

SE

DB

11

5’10’’

163

Ethan Beard*

64

OL

DL

10

6’4’’

201

Damian DiAngelis

56

OL

LB

10

5’11’’

179

Aaron  Euler

77

OL

DL

10

5’7’’

155

David  Gerth

7

QB/RB

LB

10

5’5’’

130

Dylan  Gross

33

SE

DB

10

5’9’’

136

Colton Herb

19

SE

DB

10

6’3’’

175

Josiah Kerstetter

75

OL

DL

10

5’11’’

190

Tyler Mengel

25

RB

LB

10

5’7’’

134

Dustin Motter

62

OL

LB

10

5’7’’

175

CJ Schrack

51

OL

DL

10

5’2’’

150

Corey Teasdale

39

SE

LB

10

5’9’’

145

George Thompson*

74

OL

DL

10

6’3’’

265

Tyler Whitman

80

RB

DB

10

5’9’’

140

Isaac Wengert

12

QB

DB

10

5’9’’

150

Matthew Vines

45

RB

DL

10

6’0’’

230

Will Thompson

18

SE

DB

9

6’0’’

150

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