By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
A recurring theme around the NIC-10 this season is inexperience on the offensive line. And as every coach will tell you, a good line is the key to having a good offense.
For the Guilford Vikings, experience will not be an issue. They return five of six offensive linemen who played last year, meaning instead of learning schemes, they can improve on working together and getting better at the schemes.
“Having those linemen back is a big deal,” Head Coach Mel Gilfillan said. “You can have a great back, but with no linemen, you got nothing.”
Behind that line is one of the most explosive players — not only in the conference, but in the state — in running back Dontrell Chance.
“He is, hands down, the fastest kid in the league,” Gilfillan said of the senior. “He’s not a big kid, but he’s explosive, he’s fast and can cut on a dime. We want to try and put the ball in his hands multiple times.”
One issue for the offense is the lack of a starting quarterback. Cody Bell was a two-year starter who graduated, and the Vikings are still searching for his replacement.
But with the returning line and skill position players, Gilfillan hopes it can be an easy transition for whoever becomes the starter.
“We’re not going to ask that guy to do a lot,” he said. “We’re going to run the ball, run with a lot of power. We want that guy not to make mistakes and not put a lot of pressure on them.”
Defensively, the Vikings return several players as well. Gilfillan expects to have a good mix of size and speed, as well as a group of linebackers he counts among the best group of four he has coached in his time at Guilford.
With all this returning talent, optimism is running high. And even at a school that has made the playoffs seven straight years, expectations are high this year.
“We have a good bit of experience back, and I think we have a team that is in the top third in the conference, and we expect to be battling with those teams,” Gilfillan said. “We’re looking to compete with everybody each week.”
From the Aug. 17-23, 2011, issue