The Viewmont High football team learned a hard lesson last year about the old defense-wins-championships cliche.
They found the saying is a bit misleading. Defense alone doesn't win championships. You need a little offensive punch, too.
"We were pretty good defensively but pretty lethargic offensively," said third-year coach Robbie Gunter. "It didn't help our cause at all."
Because the Viking players have been working their tails off since then, he's confident their scoring drought will be over. Overall size might be lacking, but Viewmont should have some speed to make up for its smallness.
"We want to help the team with our offense. We didn't do a great job of that last year," the coach said. "We feel like this year, we've got some kids who can move the ball."
Though Viewmont will be breaking in a new quarterback — either senior Zach Nyborg or junior Greg Madsen — the offensive bonus for the Vikings is that they return several key skill players. Ryan Higley, a mainstay last year, will be the starting running back in their one-back spread formation.
"He's a great leader-type player, a real hard-working kid," Gunter said. "He has a pretty good feel for football and is a real intense player."
Making life a little easier for whomever wins the QB battle is the return of starting receivers Nate Randall and John Fidel. Tight ends Braden Schlehuber and Shawn Walker also give the QB some lethal weapons as blockers and receivers.
And as far as the QB position goes, Gunter isn't too worried. It's a case of having two good talents.
"We'll be fine with either one of those young men," he said. "They're good leaders and very athletic players." The offensive line is one of the only areas in which Viewmont has to completely restock. Kris Mortensen is the only experienced player back in the trenches, but, Gunter said, the newcomers have played together before and been successful.
Viewmont is again counting on special teams to be a strong point. The Vikings have proven capable of scoring on returns as well as blocking punts and kicks. Junior Derrick Keddington has the hefty task of replacing first-team all-state kicker Trevor Heiner.
Defensively, several guys are back from the stingy squad that held high-flying Fremont to seven points and Bountiful to nine points in Viewmont victories.
"It's collectively a good group again," Gunter said. When asked to name a few standouts, he said he'd prefer to not "single anyone out of that group." Experienced returners include Higley, Randall, Nick Watkins, Schlehuber, Walker and Mortensen.
Coming off of 6-5 and 5-6 seasons, the Vikings will have to be on their best playing behavior each week in Region 1 to make the playoffs since only four teams from the tough league qualify for postseason play.
"We want to compete every week," Gunter said. Adding that the team theme is "strength and honor," he pointed out that the Vikings aim "to do things right, to play as hard as we can, work as hard as we can, do as best as we can to represent our community and school."
All the better if that includes points on the scoreboard and Ws in the standings.
(home games in bold)
Aug. 19 — OREM, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — ALTA, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Bountiful, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — NORTHRIDGE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — CLEARFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at Fremont, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — at Davis, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — WEBER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — at Layton, 7 p.m.
COACH: Since relocating from Preston, Idaho, head coach Robbie Gunter has had a split decision with the Vikings, going 11-11 in two seasons.
KEY PLAYERS: Ryan Higley, an all-stater who excels at running back and defensive back, is an offensive threat. The Vikings QB — either Zach Nyborg or Greg Madsen — has returning receivers Nate Randall and John Fidel and two good tight ends, Braden Schlehuber and Shawn Walker. Along with those guys, Nick Watkins, Shawn Walker and Kris Mortensen will help clog up opponents' offenses.
STRENGTHS: Defense will be the Vikings' bread and butter. Last year, the team was fifth in 5A in points against. They have good speed and toughness.
QUESTION MARKS: Whether or not Viewmont can score will be the key to success. The Vikings are also in the midst of a QB battle and must replace an all-state kicker.
LAST SEASON: Finished 5-6 and lost to Brighton in the first round but beat Bountiful and Fremont in regular season.
PROJECTED REGION 1 FINISH: TBA
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: If the Vikings can get some underclassmen to contribute and their offense doesn't sputter, they're plenty capable of making a playoff push.