Lamar Vikings looking for strength in experience

Posted Monday, Aug. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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With half its starters and a class of almost 40 lettermen returning, the Lamar football team is hoping its youth movement of last season will pay dividends in 2013.

“We feel stronger across the board,” coach Trent Fuller said. “There’s a few areas where we might not be as strong as we were last year, but if you look at the big picture, we’re definitely stronger overall.

“The biggest thing about this group and this senior class is that they’ve been successful throughout their entire high school career,” he added. “And it’s not just talent, but there’s a lot of kids that want to work hard and want to do good, and that makes a huge difference.”

The Vikings finished 6-6 overall last season with a 4-3 slate in district play, earning them a playoff berth, which they rode to the area round. Gone from that team are many of the skill position players on offense, but the entire offensive line is back.

“That’s huge,” Fuller said. “We’ve got experience up front; we’ve got experience at running back. The only inexperienced area would be receiver and quarterback, but if you’ve got that run game you can fall back on, that makes things a whole lot easier. And that starts with the offensive line.”

That line is also providing the offense with leadership. Two members, Erich Sullins and Francisco Garcia, were chosen as captains for the season, along with tailback Cameron Smith, who highlights the Vikings’ offensive threat.

Last season, Smith ran for almost 1,000 yards and averaged more than eight yards a carry while finding the end zone eight times.

“Cameron is amazing, but at the same time, there are very few backs that can carry the load all by themselves,” Fuller said.

That’s in part why Lamar will use several backs this season, including sophomore Cory Wharton and Jamal Kemp, a senior who was expected to be a big part of the Vikes’ run game last season but was injured in the first game. He’s healthy again for this season, and his versatility and playmaking ability will allow him to also see time at receiver.

Perhaps the biggest question mark is still at quarterback, where junior Andy Guinn and sophomore Shane Buechele are battling for the starting job. Although one of them will have to take the first snap of the game, Fuller expects both to get playing time, at least early in the season.

“Last year at this time we were playing two quarterbacks because we were trying to figure out which could get the job done,” he said. “This year, we feel confident that both of them can get the job done, it’s just finding the best fit for our offense. I think throughout the year you’ll see both of them. We’ll decide on a starter here pretty soon, but the main thing is I feel confident how they’re progressing. It’s a good situation for us to be in.”

For what the Vikings lack in star power on defense, Fuller is hoping consistent, reliable play will be the mark of an improved unit.

“The thing about defense, more than anything else it’s a team concept,” he said. “Everyone has to be in the right spot. You can have 10 guys doing the right thing, but if one guy busts, then you have issues. I think our strength on defense is our assignment, alignment and guys knowing what they’re doing.”

Fuller praised the efforts of Cole Hadley, Oscar Rodriguez and Gene Visor, who all had solid camps for the defense.

“Every once in a while you may lack in talent or you may lack in desire, but we feel like we have a very confident group that definitely has the desire,” Fuller said.

Kicker Ryan Jacobs highlights a special teams unit that Fuller hopes can reduce some of the “hidden yardage” that opponents usually get in return games.

The Vikings open their season at 7:30 p.m. Friday against South Grand Prairie at Cravens Field.

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