By Doug Chapin
No one associated with the LaBrae High football program could have anticipated what happened in 2012. Coming off a 6-4 playoff season, the Vikings slipped to 1-9. Veteran coach Bill Bohren resigned and was replaced by rookie head coach John Armeni, an assistant in the area for more than a decade including the last two years at LaBrae.
“We have a lot of kids back that took their lumps on that 1-9 team,” Armeni said. “They don’t like to be categorized as a 1-9 team.”
Key graduates are Paul Zigmont, Carl Brown, Nate Middleton and kicker Ian Simmons. Also, quarterback Peyton Aldridge, the starter for three seasons, did not return as a senior.
The coaching staff, however, was prepared to move on without Aldridge.
“It’s one of those things where I could see the writing on the wall. We’ve been kind of preparing for life without him,” Armeni said. “Peyton’s such a great kid and he’s got so many opportunities in basketball. We’d love to have him, obviously, but we’re pretty excited about the kid we do have, Justin Jenkins.”
Jenkins (5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Jr.) took a lot of snaps at tailback last year and is a three-year starter on defense. Two other returning skill players in LaBrae’s four-receiver spread offense are receivers Marcell Richardson (6-2, 195, Sr.) and Chris Mathews (5-9, 170, Jr.).
“Marcell we are really excited about,” Armeni said. “He is a big, strong, fast receiver that we want to get the football to as much as possible.”
Up front, the only returning starter is center Nick Percich (5-9, 205, Sr.).
“Kids rally around Nick, he is very vocal and we lean on him,” Armeni said.
Armeni considers the secondary the strength of the Vikings’ 3-5-3 odd-stack defense with returning starters Jenkins, Jamal Dawkins (5-8, 145, Sr.) and Bryce Hendrickson (5-6, 145, Jr.).
Mathews returns at linebacker and will be joined by, among others, Chucky Pifer (6-2, 195, Jr.), who started as a freshman but did not play last year.
Andrew Cree (6-2, 195, So.) returns as a starter on the line but moves from nose to end. Percich also will play up front along with Will Salsgiver (5-9, 200, Jr.).
Austin Jones (6-1, 185, Jr.) and Collin Phillips (5-8, 140, Sr.) are looking to replace Simmons. Richardson and Dawkins will handle the returns.
“We have about 48 kids but only eight are seniors. A lot of our numbers are in the younger grades,” Armeni said. “A lot of young kids are getting reps now. I don’t know how ready they will be come Aug. 30, but we’re hoping as the year goes on they get experience and progress and get better each day.”