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BY JEFF FALK

FREDERICKSBURG – It’s not a complete and total gut-job. Nothing has to be torn down so it can be rebuilt again.

There’s a solid foundation still in place. But there’s a lot of renovation that needs to be performed, a lot of work to be done from the ground up.

The Northern Lebanon football program must change a culture, create an identity and enhance its numbers. And the guy charged with doing a lot of the heavy lifting is a new guy, by the name of Jason Rice.

Rice, a 20-something, 2011 graduate of Palmyra High School, is the Vikings’ new head coach, and he’s in his first year of being a head coach. Rice takes over for Roy Wall, who led the program to the most successful stretch in school history before it fell on hard times.

What Rice brings to the table is enthusiasm, a new outlook and a new high-energy offense.

“A lot of it is just building. There’s nothing being torn down,” said Rice. “It’s about how I want to run the program. It’s an emphasis on off-season training and then building relationships. It’s making everyone realize that everything you do counts towards Friday night.

“It’s baby steps, but along the way, it’s also a hard dose of reality,” continued Rice. “It’s about teaching guys that the ways to get organized may not be the ways they’re used to. It’s a lot of teaching guys how to go about their business. It started in the off-season, and now we’ve been installing offensive and defensive things. We’re going to make mistakes, we just have to learn how to fix them.”

Under Wall, Northern Lebanon garnered Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three titles in 2014, 2015 and 2017. But over the last 30 games that Wall coached, the Vikings went a combined 2-28, a mark that included an 0-8 record in 2020.

“I know there are going to be obstacles to overcome,” said Rice. “Over the last three years, there have not been a lot of wins here. At the end of the day, you’re going to have losses in your numbers. Winning cures all. Before those difficult times, they won three section titles, so there are athletes in the school.

“I’m a relationship guy,” added Rice. “I’ve got to get guys to buy in, get them believing in you as a person. I preach family and working hard. I was hired at the end of February and since then we’ve made great strides. I really feel like the players have bought in.”

In athletic offensive lineman/linebacker Kalani Adams, Northern Lebanon has a solid rock upon which to construct its foundation. But with Luke Shaffer, James Voight, Ethan Ebersole, Moises Gonzalez and Kayden Clark, the Vikings are athletic in other areas as well.

Currently being waged in Viking camp is a quarterback war between Grady Stichler and Mitchell Hetrick that will help determine Northern Lebanon’s direction.

“I really like the work ethic,” said Rice. “Northern Lebanon is a blue-collar, hard-working community. These guys are not afraid to work. They push themselves.

“To be honest, my biggest concern is our ability to play fundamental football,” Rice added. “Just how to engage that first-level block and keep your eyes on the second level. How to read defenses, pre-snap and post-snap. Adapting in a single play. It’s a game of inches and you’ve got to be able to adjust. Let’s be real, I don’t think people expect us to compete for the section. But if we focus on us, the wins will come.”

The Vikings have promoted three freshmen to the varsity as a way of gaining experience, providing competition and looking towards the future. Two of those freshmen – Hayden Adams and Eli Thompson – could make an immediate impact along the offensive line, while Myles Watson will add some much needed depth.

“I don’t just bring freshmen up. They’ve proven themselves and earned it,” said Rice. “Our goal is to change the mentality, change the culture. At some point in the season, we’re going to face adversity. When it comes, we’ve got to be willing to stand tall and smack it right back in the face. Our style of play cannot change.

“We’ve got to practice good habits,” Rice continued. “You’ve got to teach adversity to the boys and show them what it looks like. The more adversity you can present now, the better they’re going to be with people watching.”

Currently, Rice and his staff are working with numbers in the low 30s, a roster that features about a dozen seniors. Northern Lebanon is returning three starters on offense and five on defense.

“I’m confident in these boys,” said Rice. “They have raw ability and they’re going to buy in. The way we’re working, we’re not far off. It won’t be long until Northern Lebanon is fighting to win more games.”

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

2021 Northern Lebanon Football Schedule

DateOpponents
8/27
7:00 pm
Pine Grove
at Northern Lebanon

Nonleague
9/03
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Hamburg

Nonleague
9/10
7:00 pm
York Tech
at Northern Lebanon

Nonleague
9/17
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Lebanon

Nonleague
9/24
7:00 pm
Lampeter-Strasburg
at Northern Lebanon

Nonleague
10/01
7:00 pm
Annville-Cleona
at Northern Lebanon

League
10/08
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Columbia

League
10/15
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Elco

League
10/22
7:00 pm
Northern Lebanon
at Pequea Valley

League
10/29
7:00 pm
Octorara
at Northern Lebanon

League

Northern Lebanon Football Coaching History

Jason Rice (2021)

Roy Wall (2010-221)

Jack Beidler (1999-2009)

Carl Fischl (1981-1998)

Frank Wickenheiser (1980)

Ron Brewer (1976-79)

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