After losing Cody Moon to graduation, the Laconia football team knew it would have big shoes to fill.
Moon, last year’s Flyway Conference Player of the Year, finished with 1,947 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns, leading the Spartans to an 8-2 record with a 6-1 mark in the Flyway.
So heading into the fall, the next guy on the list to replace him was the No. 3 back from last year in Levin Vande Berg.
Most kids in his position would have the weight of the world on their shoulders trying to do what Moon did.
Not Vande Berg, who only carried the ball 42 times for 313 yards last season. He was just excited for the opportunity to play more.
“I didn’t feel any pressure. I was excited,” the senior said. “I didn’t get to handle the ball a lot last year and I was excited to get the chance to do that more. Cody taught me a lot and it was a good opportunity.”
“Levin was right there if it wasn’t for Cody,” Spartans head coach Mark Madigan said. “Levin could have had a great year because he’s always had that much potential. He had that lesser role but did the best to his ability.”
Vande Berg has made the most of his opportunities, as he is on pace to almost match Moon’s numbers from a year ago.
He is coming off a season-best 262 yards and three touchdowns in a win over North Fond du Lac last Friday, and through five games, Vande Berg has rushed for 945 yards on 107 attempts (8.8 average) and has 12 touchdowns.
His yardage is good for eighth overall in the state and his 12 TDs are tied for 10th.
It all begins with the offensive line. Laconia (5-0, 3-0) returned four starting linemen from a season ago. Without them, Vande Berg knows he wouldn’t be where he is now.
“Without the offensive line, I wouldn’t have had any of the yards that I’ve had,” Vande Berg said.
One aspect that Vande Berg isn’t pleased about, however, is him coughing up the ball.
“I just wish I wouldn’t have fumbled those couple of times that I did,” he said. “That’s something I really need to work on.”
Regardless, Vande Berg gives the Spartans another chance to face top-ranked St. Mary’s Springs (5-0, 3-0) this Saturday to compete for a conference championship.
“I think we have a lot better chance to compete with them than we did last year,” Vande Berg said about the 37-7 defeat to the Ledgers last year, which gave the Spartans their first loss. “We need to make our team believe that we can beat them.
“I think a lot of people are just intimidated of them. We just need to get our team ready and focused to play.”
Despite leading the team on the field every game night, he admits he’s not the most vocal person off of it.
“I really don’t feel like a senior. I mean, I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot,” Vande Berg said of his leadership role. “We have a lot of good other senior leaders on our team that take that role.”
“There’s no doubt that he’s a soft-spoken kid,” Madigan added. “He’s a very intense competitor for things he wants. His actions speak volumes. He may not say it but you can count on him to make a big tackle in a big situation or bust off a great run. He’ll do whatever it takes.”
Vande Berg certainly has followed in his father’s footsteps, as Scott Vande Berg was once a stellar running back in his day.
“Levin’s dad was a spectacular running back,” Madigan said. “His dad has been hand-in-hand with him and has taught him to be level headed. He has a great family background.”