Head coach Jeff Flood and the North Salem Vikings are moving on up to 6A this season, and Flood and his team know they’ll face one very definite challenge — depth.
“When you move up to 6A there’s a lot more depth on the teams you face, and that’s what we’ll struggle with, the ability to replace kids if they get hurt,” Flood said.
But at least Flood and his staff didn’t have to replace many guys in the offseason. The Vikings return all their skill position players, a fact that Flood finds comforting as he’ll rely on their leadership.
At the top of that list is junior quarterback TC Manumaleuna, who has started for Flood since he was a freshman. He’s been on the national radar for years. At age 14 he received an offer from Oregon. Florida State, Miami and Louisville have been added to the list of schools that have made offers to North Salem’s signal caller, but his focus is on this season.
“Right now just focus on football, play with my guys,” Manumaleuna said.
Manumaleuna is joined by a pair of seniors as the leaders of the team, running back Josiah Davis and receiver Erick Gonzalez.
“Their experience and their leadership, the expectations they have for themselves and for the people around them I think has been really important,” Flood said.
And having Davis back is almost an addition for the Vikings after he was hampered by a hamstring injury throughout the 2021 season. Even with the injury, Davis managed to put up 1,268 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“I anticipate he’ll pick up where he left off,” Flood said. “He’s a bigger, more physical version of himself this year. I would hope he’s able to withstand the load we’re expecting him to carry.”
Davis said that because of the injury last season, he put on weight. The added size made him have to change his style to more of a power back.
But now, Davis says he is back to running full speed, and still has the added size and power to go with it.
“Being able to truck someone and then speed up, it feels good,” Davis said.
Davis has some big goals for the season, aiming for 30 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards.
Flood even sees the time Davis was out as a good thing, letting them develop the guys around him during those games.
Even with the return of their skill positions, Flood knows they’ll have problems in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
“Up front it’s always a challenge for us to make sure we have guys that can block for those guys and guys on the d-line that can tackle,” Flood said.
One guy Flood will rely on is senior Christian Camacho, who played as a backup last year, but will be a key piece to the offensive line this season.
Defensively, Flood said they need to develop an identity. Junior linebacker and three-year starter Jerrick Wangler should be a big part of that identity.
Some may doubt that North Salem is ready for the move up this season, but those doubts are just adding to the Vikings fire for the season.
“Everyone here has a chip on their shoulder this year,” Davis said. “No one thinks we can do it, but with the team we have this year, I don’t think people realize how good we are and what we’re adding to the team this year.”