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2021 Preview: Williams Valley Vikings

Coach: Tim Savage, 10th season (85-24)

Classification: 1A

League/division: Colonial-Schuylkill Blue

2020 record: 8-1, 6-0 in Schuylkill League

Postseason: Shared District 11-1A championship.

                                          RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Comp-Att, Yards, TDs

Isaac Whiteash: 3-5, 19, 1

Rushing: Att-Yards, Avg, TDs

Alex Achenbach: 78-501, 6.4, 3

Hunter Wolfgang: 61-350, 5.7, 3

Logan Williard: 35-92, 2.6, 4

Receiving: Rec-Yards, Avg, TDs

Logan Williard: 11-162, 14.7, 2

Brady Evans: 9-244, 27.1, 3

Hunter Wolfgang: 7-188, 26.9, 1

Key returning players: Jackson Yoder, sr, LB/C; Owen Shoop, sr, OG/DT; Hunter Wolfgang, sr, WR/DE; Nic Joseph, sr, TB/DB; Ezi Hite, jr, OT/DE; Brady Evans, jr, WR/CB; Logan Williard, jr, FB/OLB; Alex Achenbach, so, TB/CB; Brayden Shadle, jr, OG/DT; Cruz Banda, jr, OL/DL; Isaac Whiteash, jr, QB/DB.

Outlook: Although Williams Valley has unleashed some potent attacks during the Tim Savage Era, the 2021 Vikings may be just as powerful even if the formula is somewhat different than some earlier squads. While Savage has had to revamp his backfield a bit, an experienced offensive front should make life a heck of a lot easier for the Vikings’ new quarterback. If that happens and Williams Valley’s offensive front takes control, Savage’s Vikings could climb consistently from the preseason No. 9 ranking that PennLive hung on the youngsters who live along U.S. 209. What’s neat is the Vikes will get tested within the Colonial-Schuylkill League’s Blue Division and even when Williams Valley takes on some of the programs in the potent White Division. Bottom line is there’s move than enough here to make a run at yet another 11-A crown and more.

Three Things to Know:

1. Big eaters up front should make life easier for revamped backfield: Buoyed by the return of all five starters up front — and for the second straight season at that — head coach Tim Savage knows his offensive line needs to control, take over and even dominate games so his high-octane attack can continue to hum smoothly. Center Jackson Yoder and guard Owen Shoop will start on the O-Line for the fourth consecutive year while juniors Ezi Hite, Brayden Shadle and Cruz Banda will begin their third seasons as starters. “If they can’t carry a team, it’s never gonna happen,” said Savage, whose front ranges in size from 180 pounds to 230 pounds. “It’s gonna be a really nice line for the skill guys to run behind and the quarterbacks to throw behind. They should have plenty of time. I’m excited for them. I keep saying that the multiple all-state kids aren’t present on the team, but I think we’ll have quite a few by the time the season’s over.” A half-dozen Williams Valley youngsters landed on all-state teams in 2020, but only LB/Return man Logan Williard and DE Hite return. QB Bryce Herb, TE Jesse Engle, DB Jake Herman and PK Collin Rafferty have graduated. “I’m excited for the year,” Savage added. “I don’t have the alpha male in a (Dylan) Rabuck or an Engle, but collectively it could be one of our best teams. I’m really high on them.”

2. Departures of Herb and Engle are being addressed and the early returns are favorable: While many small school football programs would be reeling after losing four-year regulars at key positions, but Savage remains optimistic — even though record-setting quarterback Bryce Herb and defensive stopper/elite receiver Jesse Engle have graduated and moved on. “No one’s trying to be Jesse,” Savage said. “What we have is more depth and more options. What we lose is that single star power, but we’ll compensate and surpass. There’s three options, because the guys in the back can run and catch it and then there are receivers that run good routes and make plays for us. Then we have a freshman tight end that we’re grooming to be the next Jesse.” As for Herb, the Vikings have their first true quarterback competition in several seasons as junior Isaac Whiteash and sophomore Alex Achenbach are angling for the starting nod. Whiteash saw some time a season ago, while Achenbach took over at tailback for the final two-thirds of Williams Valley’s season. “We’ve got different sets for different guys, so there’s a package for both and I’m so excited for that,” Savage added. “They’ve both been throwing the ball better each day. … They’ve both been picking it up.”

3. Numbers have Savage fired up, but so does his squad’s flexibility: Carrying a roster numbering 41 youngsters — “It’s the most I’ve ever had,” Savage said — has the remarkably candid skipper upbeat, so does the flexibility his offensive attack can put on the field in an effort to confound opposing defenses. In addition to the different looks his quarterback candidates can present, the presence of senior speedster Nic Joseph gives the Vikings a home-run threat at tailback. Achenbach is bigger and faster — he led Williams Valley in rushing a season ago — so he can get plugged in at tailback, while Logan Williard gives Savage’s bunch a dependable performer at fullback. All of them can run the ball and catch it, too. On the flanks, returning receivers Hunter Wolfgang and Brady Evans stand 6-4 yet they also can stretch the field. Quite simply, the Vikes have plenty of horsepower they can unleash while chasing Colonial-Schuylkill Blue and District 11 championships. “It’s by far the deepest group I’ve ever had,” Savage added. So, if everything plays out the way Savage has things scripted, beware.

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