FAIRFIELD — There’s nothing like a little experience, especially when it comes to high school football.
Too little experience was a problem for Vanden in 2012 as a largely green set of Vikings went 4-6 and missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and had their first sub .500 campaign in five seasons.
“The fact we have a lot of returning guys, I feel we’re quicker this year because we’re playing with experienced guys,” said LeVon Haynes, who’s entering his ninth season as Vikings head coach. “I feel like that’s one of our strengths.”
So is leadership as Vanden returns senior linebacker Elijah Williams, the 2012 Solano County Athletic Conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year winner, and junior quarterback Jadon Brisendine, who threw for more than 1,700 yards last season.
The solid leadership displayed by Williams, Brisdendine and others, is invaluable, according to Haynes.
“Just being able to have it, that’s the key to success,” the coach said. “You’ve got to have guys that want to lead the team, guys who want to follow. That makes kids accountable. It takes pressure off coaches. You must have it to have a successful football season.”
Also back on defense are defensive backs Billy Hurst, Isaiah Creal-Musgray and D.J. Muchison, Tyler Koss at linebacker and linemen Jordan Garcia, Theo Bohanan and Dan Hamilton.
Expected to contribute on defense are linemen Garrett Knight, Mason Cain, Josh Stewart and Tharon Cornist, and linebackers Isaiah Hamilton-Williams and Kahlil Nunley.
Brisendine’s 1,726 passing yards in 2012 ranks sixth on the school’s all-time single-season list and his 18 TD passes ranks fifth. Only Ben Scott, the city’s all-time passing leader, had more as a sophomore (2,174 and 27 in 2009).
Brisendine had to replace Scott, who had three straight 2,000-yard seasons, hardly an easy task. At times he struggled, but Haynes knows those lessons learned will help this season.
“Having that year makes the difference,” the coach said. “He knows varsity speed, knows the difference. He can see things differently as a junior as opposed to being a sophomore. He’s battle tested. When you come into season and don’t have a quarterback who’s battle tested you’re going to struggle until he figures things out.”
Hurst and fellow running back Ren Littlepage (1,005 yards, 11 TDs in 2012) as well as receivers Dion Williams (28 receptions, 415 yards, 6 TDs) and Tony Terry are the top returning offensive threats. Blocking for them will be Garcia, Bohanan, Hamilton, Knight, Cain, Stewart and Jose Ochoa.
A tough schedule, that includes a trip to Idaho to play Copper Hills of West Jordan, Utah, figures to challenge the Vikings in 2012.
Bethel, Benicia and American Canyon made the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in 2012, while Vallejo and Fairfield should be improved.
“Our league will be tough,” said Haynes, who said the Vikings’ goals are to win SCAC and SJS titles.
To do that, the team must “continue to work hard and our seniors need to continue to lead,” he said.
It all starts when Vanden hosts Dixon on Sept. 6.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.