A new year brings a new offense to the Valders football team — the flexbone.
The team ran a version of the spread last season when the team had an abundance of receivers and three pure running backs at its disposal. This season the Vikings have eight players listed at either running or full back, giving head coach Jesse Schneider a multitude of options.
“We had several receivers so the spread made sense,” said Schneider. “The one thing we really lacked last season was a runner with the ability to make the type of cuts needed in a pure spread offense. This year we can really give the flex a try with so many backs.”
The flexbone features a quarterback who lines up under center and the fullback directly behind him with two split backs on either side of the quarterback. This forces the defense to play a veritable shell game of guessing which player will eventually end up with the ball.
The most notable teams to run this offense are the Navy, Army and Georgia Tech college football programs.
Unlike in more conventional offenses, the flexbone allows the fullback to become the primary carrier with an emphasis on downhill running. Senior Brandon Ertel will move to fullback after spending last season as the starting running back, one reason why Schneider is confident in his new offense.
“Brandon’s playing style really can shine in the new offense,” said Schneider. “We ran a variation of the flex at times last year, but (quarterback Nathan Elliot) was more of a pure passer so we didn’t see the need to fully commit.”
With the graduation of Elliott, the offense will be run by either senior Dayton Goehring or junior Forrest Fenlon. Both have their own unique strengths, with Goehring more of a passer and Fenlon having a better grasp of the option according to Schneider.
Whichever quarterback emerges, they’ll be comforted by the fact four senior starters from last season’s offensive line return.
“The offensive line will be the backbone of this team,” added Schneider. “With four starters returning they all know what’s expected of them and what it takes to be effective.”
Schneider split head coaching duties with the defensive-minded Mike Arendt the last two seasons. Arendt stepped down earlier in the off-season, leaving the offensive Schneider with a rather young defense to oversee.
Also gone from a season ago are seven All-Olympian/Packerland large selections including second team linebackers Austin Shillcox and Kyle Brown, Taylor Korslin (defensive end) and Jacob Ditter (defensive back), The lone returning player to garner All-OPC-L honors is honorable mention defensive lineman Tanner Duchow.
Schneider will keep his colleague’s preferred 3-5 defensive scheme to give a young unit as much stability as he can.
Overall, the Vikings will see the bulk of their team come from underclassmen with 18 sophomores compared to nine seniors and six juniors. This comes after 12 more players joined the team than last season.
“We may lack senior leadership especially on defense,” said Schneider. “But we took a step in the right direction last year and if these kids stick around we’ll have one heck of a group of upperclassmen in a few years.”
Schneider thinks if his offense can take the pressure off the defense by limiting its number of negative plays, a return to the playoffs is more than within reach.
Last season might have ended with a 43-0 loss against OPC-L rival Kewaunee in Level 2 of the playoffs, but the 2012 season begins with a familiar opponent in Sturgeon Bay.
Valders defeated Sturgeon Bay early last season 21-6, but the Clippers have an almost entirely new coaching staff.
“In the past Sturgeon Bay has been somewhat predictable,” said Schneider. “With that much turnover though, nobody knows how things will turn out until we see them on the field.”
The same can be said about the Vikings’ new-look offense and youthful defense.
Tom Dombeck can be reached at 920-686-2965 or firstname.lastname@example.org