New coach Steve Masseth has brought some changes with him to Valley Christian’s 8-man football team.
The offense will be doing things it hasn’t in the past, while the defense might have a bit of different look as well.
But one thing hasn’t changed as the Warriors enter their third season of competition in 8-man football – there will be plenty of room on the sidelines.
“For our scrimmage, we had only 10 guys we could suit up,” said Masseth, whose team sports an actual roster of 12.”Most of these guys are going both ways and special teams. We’d love to have more guys, but we’ll go to war with what we got. The guys are fighting and they are excited to be able to play.”
Not only is the roster light on players it’s also running a little low on experience.
After graduating five seniors from last year’s team, the Warriors will take only two seniors and two juniors to the field with them.
“I’m one of two seniors (along with Josh Ruegsegger) now and we just have to rally the new guys, especially with a lot of new faces only a few returning players,” Joseph Shettle said. “Just bring in the experience of motivating and encouraging.”
The first two years of 8-man football at Valley Christian was spent under the guidance of Tim Patterson. When he couldn’t return as coach this season, Masseth – who is also the school’s principal — took the position.
Although there may be some similarities with what the Warriors do on the field, there are also going to be plenty of differences, too.
“It’s good. It’s a different coach brings a lot new energy, new offense, new defense and different techniques and tactics,” junior Ryan Van Maanen said. “The players like it. We’re getting a lot of different, new work done.”
One of the most noticeable changes for the players: The size of the playbook.
“They actually have a thicker offensive playbook than they’ve had in the past. I got a little carried away in the offseason,” Masseth said with a laugh. “The key is, we had to get to know our guys and what they can do and put them in positions where they can be most successful. We’re running some things that we’ve never run before. It’s exciting.
“These guys are very smart players, they’re coachable and they pick things up.”
Conditioning is key
With so few players means most of them will be on the field for the full 48 minutes.
To prepare the team for that prospect, they have been spending a good amount of time each practice running … and running … and running.
“We do a lot of running to keep us in shape and it’s paid off,” Van Maanen said. “During our scrimmage we could definitely tell we were more conditioned than the other teams and we have to be to stay in the game with 12 players.”
Not only do the Warriors need to be conditioned to play the full game it might also help them cut down on injuries – a necessity with a 12-man roster.
“When you’re tired injuries happen. You’re a little lazy, you’re standing around piles. Technique kind of falls. That conditioning can definitely help,” Masseth said. “That’s why we focus on that conditioning because these guys have to be in better shape than the teams we’re playing.”
Two weapons return
Van Maanen, at quarterback, and Shettle, at running back, both return to their starting roles 7⁄8and will be looked on to carry the offense.
Shettle is in his third year of starting at running back and is primed to have a big season.
“I’ve been working hard this summer,” Shettle said. “Last year, I had a little bit of ankle problems. So I’ve strengthened my ankles and I’m ready to get back out there and give my best.”
Added Masseth: “He’s a big, strong, thick guy and I’m looking forward to seeing him move the chains for us.”
Van Maanen, who played wide receiver as a freshman, is one of the most athletic players on the team and can use that athleticism on designed runs from his quarterback spot or when he is forced to scramble.
Those skills he showed last year but this season hopes to showcase his throwing arm just as much.
“I hope to involve more passing,” Van Maanen said. “During our scrimmage we had a lot of good passing plays, which we weren’t really expecting.”
Masseth also likes the leadership the junior shows at the position, something has developed over his first two years playing varsity.
“When he was a freshman he was playing receiver because if he had a bad play, it would affect him for a quarter,” Masseth said. “Now, he’s got a better head. He can overcome any mistakes much quicker and he’s developed into a great leader for our team.
“We put him at quarterback last year exclusively because we knew that in order to be successful on offense, we needed somebody that’s going to be here awhile to run the show. I’m excited about what he’s going to do at quarterback for us this year.”
New faces on the line
Nowhere did graduation hit the Warriors harder than on the offensive line, where four starters from last year departed.
Junior Ben Peterson is the lone holdover of the group and will be counted on to get the job done and help those around him, too.
“Ben’s doing a great job of showing leadership on the offensive line and showing those guys what it takes to compete,” Masseth said. “They’re learning as we go and they’ve really come a long ways.”
The group could get a boost from freshman Brent Kiefer, who is slated to play at tight end for the Warriors and brings the experience of playing football at the junior high level to field. He could be one of Van Maanen’s top targets in the passing game as well.
But outside of Peterson and Kiefer, the rest of the offensive line is going to be pretty inexperienced, however, Masseth doesn’t think that will have a huge effect on what the team will try to do offensively.
“I’ve had to scale that back my vision of what we could potentially do, but it was more that we had to just simplify some things,” Masseth said. “I don’t feel like we’ve had to scarfice much on what we want to do.”
Taste of victory
After going winless in its first season of 8-man football, Valley Christian didn’t have a repeat performance.
The Warriors beat the Wisconsin School for the Deaf on the road last season, marking the school’s first win in 8-man football and the first football win in more than 10 years overall at the school.
“It was unbelievable,” Shettle said of the win. “Bringing home a win that day was something special to be a part of. I’ll never forget it.”
And even though only a handful of players on this year’s squad was a part of that victory, the win still resonates with the squad.
“With only four returning players, the taste of victory is going to be with us four,” Van Maanen said. “We’re trying to keep that win in our heads. Not think about it too much, but definitely strive for that feeling again.”
“It was big,” he said. “Getting that first taste of victory, it picked the whole team up and I definitely thing it carried over to this year.”
More than one
Getting the win last year made goal-setting for the Warriors pretty easy for this season.
It’s called wins – with an ‘s.’
“I told the guys, my goal this year is to win games. I didn’t put a number on it, but it’s more than one,” Masseth said. “So our goal is to win games this year and I think based on what we saw at the scrimmage, we’re excited. We think we can accomplish that.”
The players have definitely bought in as well.
“Definitely. That’s what we’re after,” Van Maanen said. “We have to be heads up throughout the whole (game) no matter what happens on the field and keep pushing forward. Play by play, winning the little battles to win the war.”