What's new? Gavin O'Neil's role.
At this time last year, Gavin O'Neil was set to be the starting quarterback for the Lake Stevens team. He helped get the Vikings to the playoffs and was even an honorable mention all-conference player.
However, Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri envisions a different role for the senior this season.
"We're going to use him at receiver, running back, and he'll throw. We're going to use him all over the place," Tri said. "Gavin O'Neil is a really athletic, skilled player who is going to be all over the field."
When describing O'Neil's new role, Tri likens O'Neil to the Seattle Seahawks new – albeit injured – offensive weapon Percy Harvin, as well as former Lakewood super-athlete Justin Peterson.
"He's a Percy Harvin-type kid that can throw the ball," Tri said. "Justin Peterson would be another good example. I see him getting two-to-five carries per game, catching five-to-10 passes a game and maybe even throwing the ball a little bit here and there."
Returning all-conference players
First team – Austin Otis (Sr., Running Back), CJ Lat (Sr., Linebacker), Evan Miksch (Sr., Defensive Line). Second team – Evan Miksch (Sr, Offensive Line), Ignacio Ponce (Jr., Linebacker). Honorable Mention – Gavin O'Neil (Sr., Quarterback), Tanner Krenz (Sr., Running Back/Wide Receiver), Tevin Gray (Jr., Wide Receiver).
Player to watch: CJ Lat, Sr., LB/possible TE
All CJ Lat did in his first year of playing linebacker was record 112 tackles and get first-team All-Wesco 4A North honors. Now a senior, Tri has high hopes for his star defender's last season at Lake Stevens.
"He's going to be a stud," Tri said. "He plays downhill really well, he reads passes really well, he can blitz of the edge. He can pretty much do a little bit of everything."
While Lat was primarily a defender last year, the playmaker may see his number called on offense occasionally this season as well, with Tri getting Lat some snaps at tight end in early-season practices.
"He plays some tight end for us. He rotates in," Tri said. "He's really more of a defensive specialist. But he'll play some offense for us."
Fresh Faces: Tanner Krenz, Sr., TE/CB
A unique fresh face, Krenz started last season at running back for the Vikings before a bruised rib forced him to miss two games early in the year. That allowed Austin Otis, a first-team all-conference selection, to burst onto the scene at running back and left Krenz, who also plays cornerback, without a position on offense.
So this year Tri tested Krenz out at tight end and he's glad he did.
"We had to find a way to get him on the field," Tri said. "Tight end seemed like a good spot for his skill set. So we moved him there, not knowing if it would work or not, and he's been phenomenal. We did the 7-on-7 (passing camp) at Lakewood and he was our best receiver there."
Krenz played every game last year and performed solidly at the cornerback position. This year, Tri's expectations are a little higher.
"I expect him to be first-team, all-league, shutdown corner," Tri said.
The Lake Stevens coach said Krenz, who was named a captain this season, hasn't let losing his spot at running back affect him. He still works hard and is eager to get on the field and make a difference for the Vikings.
"He looks great at tight end," Tri said. "He blocks well, he's fast and athletic, smart. Just behind the scenes, he's a hard-working, good old-fashioned football player."
Youthful exuberance and cautious optimism abound at Lake Stevens right now.
A young, excited team, the Vikings have the talent to contend in the Wesco 4A North conference and make a playoff run.
"I think we've got some key guys with some experience coming back," Tri said. "That being said, we're going to be young and inexperienced. So we might go through some growing pains. But I like to think those guys are pretty talented kids and hopefully will be fast learners so by week one, week two hopefully we can start eliminating some of those mental mistakes and start firing on all cylinders. We're going to be young, but I think we'll be talented."
The Vikings are so full of playmakers, that several athletes such as Krenz and Gavin O'Neil, have had to switch positions to get more playing time. That depth and talent should help the Vikings sail this season.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that we're going to be a team to be reckoned with in the Wesco North," Tri said. "I like to think that we're in the top two or three competing for a Wesco North championship."
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