Young Vikings keep playoff goals alive
The Charlo Vikings are crossing their fingers while preparing for postseason play, holding fast to their goal to finish first in conference while averaging 52 points per game. Yet unbeaten valley rival Arlee Warriors — the only team to beat the Vikings in their 6-1 record so far — are trying to keep that prize out of reach, despite Charlo’s depth and solid play from younger athletes who have stepped up as three starters recover from injuries.
“Luckily, we have depth,” Head Coach Mike Krahn said. “The younger kids step in and fill those slots. It’s nice to see the replacements jump in and not miss a beat.”
Friday’s 56-6 victory over Noxon displayed just how prepared the younger players truly are, as the offense racked up yards and the defense kept Noxon from scoring until the final 3 minutes and 33 seconds.
“It was great to get the younger players in,” Krahn said. “We were kind of dinged up and it gave us time to heal from the bumps and bruises.”
A key player dominating the offensive while contributing tackles is junior Jared Doty, “a nice addition,” according to Krahn. Doty scored four touchdowns against Noxon, including 52-yard and a 44-yard runs and a reception from junior quarterback Trent Dennison.
“Doty has not played since his freshman year,” Krahn said. “He’s leading the team in total yards. It’s nice to be able to have that depth.”
Dennison, a junior running back, stepped into the quarterback position during Charlo’s third game when senior QB Michael Delaney was injured. Last season Delaney hurt his ankle in game two, and Dennison filled in the remainder of the season. With a year’s experience, Dennison was able to jump right back in, according to Krahn.
“We would normally have him as running back, so he really had to do both this year,” Krahn said.
Going into Friday’s game Dennison was leading the team with three interceptions.
Krahn is hoping senior running back/linebacker Jade Smith will be ready for this Friday’s crucial contest with Flint Creek, a co-op team of Philipsburg’s Granite High and Drummond.
Smith injured his ribs and was sidelined in Friday’s game.
“He’s kind of our leader, our call guy, especially defensively,” Krahn said. Krahn said Smith, “a big, physical kid at 200 pounds,” has been around so long he’s beginning to think like-minded with the coaches and is able to make the defensive calls himself. “And, he’s tough on offense.”
Krahn and assistant coach Jim Petersen are pleased with the offensive line.
“Jim Petersen, our offensive coordinator, is really pleased with our line play in last three weeks. They are doing the majority of the hard work,” Krahn said, which allows the players to put up a lot rushing yards.
Players who have stepped up, according to Krahn, are senior offensive lineman Greg Montgomery, Bridger Smith at center, and Dugan Runkel.
“It’s nice to have Runkel back. He had taken a year off,” Krahn said.
With seven seniors graduating, the team will “lose a good chunk,” but with talented underclassmen, Krahn isn’t worried.
“At Charlo we’re blessed with numbers. We have 22-23 kids each year. There’s such a good football tradition here, the younger players are just waiting for their turn,” he said.
Krahn is proud of the team’s character, not just their performance.
“(Our coaches) try to see the bigger picture. We’re not perfect sometimes, but we definitely emphasize character. We take pride in our conduct and how we present ourselves, and we do our best to model that as coaches,” Krahn said.
Krahn attributes Viking success to many facets, including great assistant coaches, athletes putting in time off-season, football camps and support from the school administration and parents.
“We’re reaping the benefit of that,” he said. “We just need to stay healthy to make a run at it.”
The Vikings are hoping for a victory this Friday when they travel to Philipsburg to play Flint Creek. If they win, they’ll secure second place in conference and a higher seed entering postseason, which would ensure a home game advantage for their first playoff game.
“Obviously, home field is a big deal. You get to eat your home cooking, and sleep in your bed,” Krahn said.
Noon 6, Charlo 56
Noxon 0 0 0 6 – 6
Charlo 28 12 16 0 – 56