Goddard coach Scott Vang had high hopes prior to last season for players such as Dakota Driskill, a talented linebacker and running back who made significant contributions for the Lions as a sophomore.
One problem, though. When Goddard started the season, Driskill was on the sideline in crutches, healing a knee injury sustained at a preseason camp.
The injury epidemic never really loosened its grip on the Lions, who went 2-7 while relying heavily on younger players to complete the journey.
“After the fourth or fifth week, guys were dropping everywhere,” Driskill said. “We had a lot of freshmen who were getting playing time. When I finally played, I was at defensive end. I couldn’t really run.”
Driskill is healed and back at linebacker, where he is part of a unit that Vang expects to be a team strength entering his third season. The Lions showed flashes of their defensive potential in the 2013 season finale, when they defeated rival Eisenhower 35-10.
“We see a lot of spread offenses, and we’ve found a variety of the 4-3 that works well for us,” Vang said. “We had to play a ton of young kids last year. They’re getting bigger, faster and stronger, and hopefully that will help out.”
Goddard surrendered 34 points or more in all of its losses. For that to change, Vang said it’s important for the Lions to shore up deficiencies in all areas.
“It’s still a three-phase game,” Vang said. “We turned the ball over on a short field. That happened to us more than once. Not covering a punt or a kickoff all the way – those things will get you into trouble.
“We’re trying to build on doing the little things right every time.”
Vang will entrust his offense to quarterback Kyle Young, a converted slot back who presents dual-threat potential. Driskill and senior running back Jaron Palmer will run behind a line that returns seniors Harper Rogers and Ben Hall.
Defensively, Vang believes he has one of Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division II’s best linebackers in junior Cory Atkins. Senior defensive lineman Carter Gragg and free safety earned all-league recognition last season, while junior Luke Vang and Tate Vang are possible two-way starters.
While Goddard’s schedule includes a game against Class 5A runner-up Salina South, the Lions won’t play perennial power Carroll after district realignment. With home games against Liberal and Arkansas City, and the regular-season finale with Eisenhower, Goddard won’t leave town during district play.
“We have talent,” Driskill said. “A lot of the seniors we have coming back have played since they were sophomores. It feels like an older team. We’ll still be young in places, but we have more experience.”
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Sept. 5||Maize South|
|Sept. 12||at Clearwater|
|Sept. 19||Andover Central|
|Sept. 26||at Salina South|
|Oct. 3||at Valley Center|
|Oct. 24||Arkansas City|
|Oct. 31||at Eisenhower|
Dakota Driskill on his team