LEIPSIC – Whether it is the NFL, college or high school, August is the most optimistic month of the year on the football calendar.
With 10 straight years of qualifying for the playoffs, Leipsic is one of those places where a hopeful outlook has a solid base underneath it year after year.
The Vikings have starters back at 14 positions from last year’s team that won 10 games, went two rounds into the playoffs and whose only two losses were to Division VII state champion McComb.
But they also have to replace some of the key players on last year’s team, such as quarterback Dylan Schroeder, who threw for 2,100 yards, running back Gavin Lomeli, a 1,000-yard rusher, and receivers Cole Rieman and Tyler Hiegel.
Leipsic coach Joe Kirkendall says that playoff streak is not something the coaches use to motivate Leipsic’s athletes, though.
“It never gets mentioned. I think the kids know; people in town know. But this year, especially, this group has been focused on this year and our goals as team for this year. That has not been talked about. We talk about the importance of being at the top of the BVC, and we expect year after year to be one of the top teams,” he said.
Sophomore Dillan Niese and senior Drew Liffick, who played four games at quarterback when Schroeder was injured in 2017, are Leipsic’s two options at quarterback.
“I am truly going to let it play out and see how the chips fall,” Kirkendall said about the quarterback competition.
Sophomore Fabian Pena, who was third on the team in tackles last season, will be the starter at one receiver position, and junior Tyler Sickmiller will be the receiver on the other side. Juan Pena and Cole Williamson, who combined for nearly 1,000 yards rushing in 2018, will be the running backs.
“We’re very high on our backs. This is their time, their opportunity and I’m excited to see what they can do,” Kirkendall said.
“We were over 70 percent completions last year, which speaks for itself. When you look at us from an offensive standpoint, that’s been the No. 1 flag that you look at. It’s one of those things we’ve just got to work to try to replace those yards somehow.”
Where Leipsic does have a strong concentration of returning starters is on defense, where seven of last year’s starters, including the top five tacklers are back, and on the offensive line, where four of the five players are returning starters.
Ryley Spangler, the Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year in the BVC, starts at offensive tackle and defensive tackle. Center Evan Schroeder was third-team All-BVC last year, and Hunter Spangler was honorable mention All-BVC as an offensive lineman.
Three linebackers were All-BVC. Williamson was first-team, Juan Pena was third team and Caleb Lammers, the Vikings’ leading tackler, was honorable mention. Grant Steingass was third-team as a defensive tackle.
“We have three linebackers, two defensive tackles, and two safeties. Definitely we’re ahead of the curve defensively and have a lot of experience. We’re trying to develop some depth,” Kirkendall said.