MORIAH — Fresh off a trip to the Class D state championship a season ago, Moriah is ready for more and geared up to take that one final step.
Plenty of work has to be done before the Vikings get back to where they want to be, but Moriah’s 2019 group has confidence in itself.
“The kids have been ready, and they know what it took to get there last year,” said Vikings coach Don Tesar, who enters his 20th season with Moriah.
“We have a lot of new kids to the group in addition to the returners, and our team’s goal is to get back to the state championship. They have been working really hard to set themselves up to succeed.”
After defeating Ticonderoga in the Section VII Class D championship last season, the Vikings picked up wins against Warrensburg and Haldane in the state playoffs before losing to Clymer/Sherman/Panama in the title game.
Moriah quarterback Jeff Strieble said the Vikings took pride in their playoff run and want to be even better.
“The run we had last year just shows what we can do as a small school, and we have to prove ourselves, once again, this year and be as good as we were last year,” Strieble said.
“It’s a good competition for ourselves to have as a team. We want to be better than we were last year and have a better ending.”
Strieble, who took over quarterback duties in Week 3 a season ago, finished with 1,521 passing yards and is expected to lead Moriah’s offense once again.
Maddox Blaise, who rushed for 875 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground will be the Vikings’ main ball carrier, and Braden Swan should be a key contributor in different aspects of Moriah’s offense.
Blaise also piled up 549 receiving yards and caught five touchdowns in 2018.
“We just have to block well just like last year and work hard in practice to be good,” Blaise said.
“We have been together for a long time. We have a lot of chemistry and a strong bond. These first two weeks of practice have been great. I think we have had a better start to the season this year than we did last year.”
Tesar said the Vikings will be young on the offensive line and will be missing senior lineman Mike Rollins, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and will miss a significant portion of the season.
Rollins will bring a wealth of experience to the line when he returns, as Moriah, according to Tesar, has constructed a brand new front line.
“The main focus for us is getting our younger kids ready for the varsity level,” Tesar said. “The younger guys have already realized things are a bit faster, but they are fully capable of taking that next step.”
Some of the Vikings’ top experience is on defense, as they return six players.
Myles Madill, Mark Maye, Swan, Caleb Harris, Matt Diehl and Strieble were some of the names Tesar mentioned when discussing who he expected to pace Moriah’s defense.
“One thing that is important for the guys to know is adjustments will be made as the season goes on,” Tesar said. “If things don’t work right away, we can adjust.
“We lost a couple games last year and then moved some things around. Those adjustments ended up working out. Once we got everything going, we worked together and played as hard as we can. We have to have the same mindset this year.”
Focusing on his team’s strengths, Tesar said Moriah has a talented backfield, led by Blaise, as well as a confident quarterback.
“Jeff is throwing the ball well right now,” Tesar said. “If we can throw the ball and run the ball, that will open up a lot of things for us.
“We have great versatility in many cases, and it’s just a matter of getting an offensive line to work with our skill guys.”
The Vikings open their season Saturday, Sept. 7, at 1:30 p.m. against Saranac before having their home opener against Peru in Week 2 at Linney Field.
As Moriah waits to form a better connection between its returners and newcomers, there’s a strong belief that the team chemistry will be prevalent relatively quickly.
“We can do the same things we did last year and make it far,” Swan said. “It just comes down to the work we put into the season. Every single week, you have to come out and put it on the line.”
Tesar acknowledged his team already has an evident bond that will only grow stronger as the 2019 campaign progresses.
“At the end of the day, our guys know their past success has put a target on their backs,” Tesar said.
“With that being said, though, they are working hard, and they are working together.
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