Preseason workouts for Mountain View have had the usual ups and downs, but there is an area that coach Matt Sullivan feels could have been better when practices began in early August.
“We could have been in a little better shape,” he said, “and that’s the biggest thing for us when the season starts. We’ve got to be conditioned and in shape because we don’t have a whole lot of depth.
“We’ve got to stay healthy, and we can help limit that by being in the best shape that we can be. The kids understand that and have done a good job of getting to where we need to be heading into that first week against Salem.”
Sullivan’s concerns are definitely valid, considering that he’ll have between 30 and 35 players on the roster, most of which are underclassmen. Still, the goal of winning football games every Friday night hasn’t changed, no matter the circumstances.
Mountain View had a tough time picking up a victory in 2012. The Yellowjackets lost their first eight games of the year, seven of which were by double figures, before pulling out a 15-14 victory over Melbourne in the 1-3A and regular-season finale.
The 2013 season offers Mountain View a chance at redemption, and the potential for a successful year. The Yellowjackets return 11 starters and welcome in a sophomore class that Sullivan said won a lot in junior high.
“We’re going to be pretty young, but the expectations are high,” he said. “A lot of times, you never know how things will go when you’re dealing with young guys, but they all want to win.
“Those sophomores won last year, and they want to continue winning this year.”
One of the 10th-graders that Sullivan is expecting to pick up where he left off in junior high is running back Josh Burns (5-4, 135). The speedster is expected to shoulder the bulk of the load in the backfield, with seniors Devin Jeffries (6-1, 210) and Aaron McDougall (5-6, 150) providing depth.
Quarterback Dakota Davis (6-3, 175) returns to lead the Yellowjackets’ Pro I offense. The junior, according to Sullivan, is a year older in the system and will be leaned on heavily for an offense that failed to score in four games last year.
Sullivan also feels good about his talented group of receivers, led by junior Dakota Nash (5-11, 140).
“We’ve got some pretty good talent at the skilled positions,” Sullivan said. “We feel pretty comfortable that we’ll be able to move the ball of offense — just can’t afford too many injuries.”
The offensive line, an area of greater importance because of low roster numbers, is bolstered by the return of junior left tackle Ross Balkman (5-11, 287). Junior Auston Salazar (5-11, 238) is also back.
The defense should be improved after taking its share of lumps last season. That side of the ball, which returns five regulars, actually kept Mountain View in several games last year, despite the team giving up an average of 28 points per outing.
Balkman and Salazar are both mainstays on the front, while Jeffries and senior Lane Phillips (5-7, 145) will lead from the linebackers and secondary, respectively.
“Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about where we are,” Sullivan said. “These kids have been in the system for a while now, and the scheme hasn’t changed. So they know what’s expected of them.
“The offense, defense and special teams are right where we expected them to be, but we’ll get a good test right out the gate in that first game. Salem put it on us pretty good last year, so we’re hoping we can rise up to the challenge this season.”