CLAYTON — The Thousand Islands football team is playing its 2019 football season in a lower class than in past years. With no players coming in from other schools, the Vikings will participate in Class D this season alongside Beaver River and Sandy Creek.
The Vikings are expected to suit up roughly 20 players for the season, many of whom are new to the varsity squad, including four former soccer players.
The number of graduating players has left some holes on the offense, particularly at running back. Last year’s starter Michael Briggs ran for 1,135 but graduated at the end of the school year.
The offensive line, however, returns three of the five members, making it the most experienced part of the team.
“It’s going to affect everything, all the way from the offensive playbook, right to play-calling on game day,” coach Ryan Kendall said. “With a solid core like that, it will always be easy enough to say when in doubt, run it behind them.”
Not only will the O-line play an integral role in the offense, the linemen are expected to step up as leaders of the whole team.
“We got (Colby) Stewart, he’s a good player, Aiden Brown, we only got four seniors this year, so it’s going to be different,” lineman Chris Wetterhahn said.
Quarterback Connor MacKay is returning as a junior and as the only the returning captain from last season. Last year he threw for just 316 yards and three passing touchdowns but that was in a run-first offense. With no true offensive identity established, MacKay will have to play a bigger role in helping the Vikings figure out how who they are.
“He’s taken on a huge leadership role,” Kendall said. “He was a leader last year, so much so that he was a sophomore captain. Now being a junior, returning captain, returning starter, he’s taking a huge leadership role. He’s a soft-spoken kid but he’s the lead-by-example kind of guy.”
One of the former soccer players is Joey Melfi who also led the Thousand Islands basketball team in points last season with 22.9 per game.
“I just like the atmosphere they brought and they were kind of short on players so I thought I’d give it a try,” Melfi said.