[tps_title] Perkiomen Valley Vikings [/tps_title]
Perkiomen Valley not ready to be met at the mountain top
They say it’s lonely at the top. But the Perkiomen Valley Vikings and coach Rob Heist aren’t in the mood for any company.
Since the PAC went to its two-division format in 2016, it’s been a clean sweep in the Valley—three Liberty Division titles, all followed by PAC championship game victories.
But right now, the eyes of the Vikings aren’t on a fourth title or any goals beyond that—they’re on the opening game at Avon Grove.
“We know there’s a target on our backs,” admitted offensive tackle Kyle Rittenhouse, “but our coaches do a great job of preparing us for that each week, keeping our focus where it needs to be in that moment.”
“It’s motivating to go after another title, but our true mentality is to go 1-0 every week,” said Gavin Euker, who joins Rittenhouse on PV’s strong offensive line. “Every player and coach stays focused on that goal above all else.”
Euker and his linemates figure to be the driving force if the Vikings are to attain another league title. Rittenhouse, Will Marotta, Matthew Wilhelm, and Elias Johnston fill out the league’s biggest, most experienced line. “We’re pretty excited about these big guys up front,” allowed Heist.
They’ll be protecting a new starting quarterback in sophomore Ethan Kohler, who supplants the graduated Cole Peterlin. Kohler saw valuable experience last season, most notably in the comeback victory over Spring-Ford that clinched the Liberty Division title, but this year it’s his show to run.
“Cole was an explosive player, dynamic with the ball in his hands,” said Heist. “Ethan’s more cerebral, more of a passer with great leadership qualities. He’s chomping at the bit for it to be his turn.”
Jacob Sturm and Jon Moccia figure to take turns carrying the ball behind that offensive line. Mike Dougherty returns at one receiver spot, while Randy Washington figures in as a do-it-all offensive weapon in both the running and passing games.
“We’re gonna try to get the ball into as many hands as we can, we certainly have some explosive playmakers,” Heist said.
Heist admits that level of experience isn’t equaled on the other side of the ball, where he said the Vikings are “a little green.” The cupboard isn’t bare by any means, with Jacob Sterling returning to anchor the defensive line, Rutgers (lacrosse) commit Matt Brock at WILL linebacker, and Washington at cornerback. But the Vikings will replace eight starters, including All-Area safety Austin Rowley and linebacker Hunter Ricci.
“I’m an offensive-minded coach, but it’s no secret that our defense has won us three consecutive championships,” said Heist. “We’ll mix it up—heavy fronts, quick, slanting looks.”
After that opener at Avon Grove, the Vikings come home to host Downingtown East before heading back on the road to encounter Pennridge and Downingtown West. On paper, it may be the most daunting nonleague slate in District One.
“We do that on purpose—iron sharpens iron,” said Heist.
“We’ve been able to stay consistent, not looking past anyone,” added Marotta. “Whether our opponent is 0-5, or whether they haven’t lost all year, we’re going out there to work for another victory.”
Offensive Player(s) to Watch >> Consistency on the offensive line has allowed PV to manage repeated graduations of elite performers at the skill positions over the past decade or so. 2019 is no different without graduated QB Peterlin and leading WR Isaiah Domine, but this year’s quintet of Rittenhouse, Marotta, Euker, Johnson and Wilhelm—all seniors—has a chance to be the strongest unit yet.
Defensive Player to Watch >> Plenty of linemen play both ways in high school football, but the Vikings’ quality and depth up front on offense will allow defensive tackle Jake Sterling to focus solely on that side of the ball, anchoring a young defense that returns only three starters.
OUTLOOK >> It’s hard to find a convincing reason to pick against Perkiomen Valley taking home another PAC title this year. But the challenges in the nonleague season may determine the path of an inexperienced Vikings’ defense. The goal is to use early encounters with the Downingtown schools and Pennridge for the needed momentum to have the unit firing on all cylinders by the time explosive Spring-Ford visits in October.
By Rob Senior; For MediaNews Group