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Prep Football Preview: Holtville Vikings

The Vikings look to replace 18 graduating seniors in their quest for another winning season

HOLTVILLE, Calif. ( KYMA, KECY-TV ) - The Holtville Vikings football team hasn't had a losing record since 2015. In 2016 the team finished the regular season at 5-5 before losing in the first round of the playoffs. The Vikings have been winning ever since including this past spring in the condensed COVID shortened season. The Vikings dropped their first two games before winning their final four games in a row to finish the season 4-2.

This fall will be another challenge for fifth year head coach Jason Turner as the Vikings graduated 18 seniors, most of which played prominent roles for Holtville. The COVID shortened season this spring also eliminated the JV team which means a lot of players on the Vikings haven't had much playing time.

"The last time some of these guys played they were freshman on JV in 2019," Head Coach Jason Turner said. "It’s going to be, how do we respond early to that live action, that’s our biggest weakness is having a lot of inexperience on the field."

Despite a lack in game experience the Vikings do have a lot of depth.

"Ironically as a program we have a lot of numbers out now," Turner said. "We have close to 80 kids out and for Holtville, that’s quite a lot. They’re young but we of have 14 seniors, a big junior class at the varsity level, so we’ve just been working on the fundamentals."

The Vikings approach this year will be to rely on the run game and senior Payton Iten.

"Payton Iten is the returning league MVP," Turner said. "He’s a running back and started off last year as a junior and our 4th string running back."

Holtville's run attack is led by senior (24) Payton Iten

The Vikings will also have a familiar face under center.

"This past season, spencer Hilfiker, who started at qb as a sophomore for us in 2019, didn’t play in the cover season," Turner said. "He’s back as a senior at quarterback. That was a big big addition for us to get Spencer back."

Anchoring the offensive line is Alan Marquez and on the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Mason Toten.

"The strength is going to be in running the ball, that’s what we focus on and that’s wear we hang our hat," Turner said. "Where we get paid is running the football so, running is our strength and our weakness is playing with like live bullets is what I call it. Because, again, we don’t have a lot of returning starters. How do we respond early to that live action, that’s our biggest weakness is having a lot of inexperience on the field."

Turner says the shortened COVID season actually made him a better coach.

"We had two weeks to prepare for Brawley," Turner said. "We ended up losing 23-22, but that COVID season taught me more as a coach. Reduce everything, remove the complexity, let the kids play and get good at that."

The Vikings will head into the season opener on Friday versus Southwest by taking a simple approach.

"In these early games I don’t want to overplay our hand" Turner said. "I want to keep everything within the guardrails, everything in perspective. One thing the kids need to understand is, one quarter at a time, lay the foundation for something bigger and that means we don’t need to add a bunch of plays in the playbook, we don’t need a bunch of fancy things, stick with running the ball, throw when we need to."

The meeting with Southwest will be the first time both teams have met since 2015. It will also be the first time head coach Jason Turner and Eagles head coach John Haines have coached against one another.

"It's a little bit of an unknown," Turner said. "He’s got returning lineman, his strength is his lineman. His guys on the offense and defensive line. That’s tough to overcome and their experience, most everyone’s experience was just in April."

Turner is excited for the season to start especially with fans back in the stands.

"It’ll be exciting to get on the bus and finally have fans," Turner said. "I want the kids to get good at something and enjoy it."

Friday's game in El Centro will kick off at 7:00 p.m. from Eagle Field. Catch all the highlights after the game at 10:20 p.m. every Friday night during the Varsity Blitz



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Scott Gross

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