JOHNSTOWN – That final repetition in the weight room or sprint in the gymnasium has been a hard one for Northridge players in recent years.
With new coach Shawn Hinkle peering over their shoulders, the Vikings now are doing an extra one for good measure.
“He stays on us pretty well, too, which is something I would say coaches in the past haven’t really done too well,” senior receiver Brenton Ickes said. “He tries to fix things for us in the weight room or if we slack off on conditioning a little bit.”
Hinkle has been at both ends of the spectrum during his short head coaching career, and he is aiming to pull Northridge up from the bottom of the Licking County League. Hinkle was hired in late May to replace Darby Riley, who resigned after just five victories in three seasons.
“The first couple weeks were very difficult,” Hinkle said. “They were part of a culture that allowed them to do those kinds of things. They understand that if you want to be successful, you can’t be that way. It took a couple heart-to-heart sessions to come to that understanding.”
Hinkle worked his way up the ladder at Canal Winchester and led the Indians to a 16 wins during the 2011 and ’12 seasons and a Division II playoff appearance. The Indians, however, were winless in Hinkle’s next and final season as the program had a rough transition to Ohio Capital Conference play.
At Canal Winchester, that season was considered a blip on the radar. For Northridge, however, the Vikings are almost a decade removed from their most recent winning season.
Hinkle’s first season will look a bit different than Riley’s final two. The Licking County League has agreed to allow Northridge out of its crossover games against Granville, Licking Valley and Licking Heights, replacing them with Division VI school Fort Frye and Division VII schools Hicksville and Bradford.
“Things here are different in that lack of success has been sustained for a few years,” said Hinkle, who was an assistant at Bloom-Carroll a season ago. “My goal here is to just be very positive with these guys and give them the tools and give them the organization and the overall framework to put these kids in the best situation they can be.”
Hinkle has had to hit the ground running, but he thankfully had some help getting things started. Riley continued to oversee the off-season program through the winter and spring.
“We had a solid group that was constantly in the weight room even when we found that our coach was leaving,” senior lineman Logan Parker said. “We still were working. We obviously knew that there were going to be changes coming, but we still wanted to keep ourselves in the weight room to get stronger for the next season.”
About 40 high school players have been participating in conditioning sessions so far this summer, which is more than the Vikings dressed for games during the 2014 season.
Actual football work begins July 20. Hinkle has chosen to pile up his 10 coaching days, which includes a passing scrimmage against Bloom-Carroll at Ohio Dominican on July 31, leading up to the beginning of official practice Aug. 1.
With no breaks once the process begins, Hinkle hopes the Vikings will be ahead of the game in their mental preparation to allow them to prepare for the physical rigors of a season.
“His message so far is that this is the season we are going to start changing things,” Parker said. “This is the season we are going to grow up and start making a change in how Northridge is looked at as a football program.”