For the second straight year, Essex will send its football players to Stanton as the two schools share the sport again this fall.
The number of Essex athletes on the team increased dramatically this season with about 10 playing for the Stanton/Essex Vikings this season. That increase has overall numbers pretty strong.
“We do have good numbers this year,” said Stanton/Essex head coach Jeff Grebin. “That’s somewhat of a testament to how things went last year, sharing with Essex. There are a few more kids coming over from Essex this year, which is exciting.”
Philip Franks and Tucker Hadden are the only two returning Essex athletes, and both hope to make big contributions to a Viking team that has some starting positions open for competition to start the season.
“We have a pretty good core of guys with experience,” said Grebin. “Our skill position players that we lost will be a challenge to replace. It could be day in and day out on who’s going to catch the ball, run the ball, block and make tackles. The defensive side, especially, is where we’re looking to shore some things up from last season.”
Grebin said there is a good mix of kids from seniors to freshmen competing for varsity time.
“We sat down Sunday as a coaching staff and tried to figure out depth charts and it was a disaster,” said Grebin. “We have some new seniors who haven’t played in a couple years. It will be interesting to see how quickly they come around and how aggressive they are with pads on. There are a lot of kids who seem to be open to moving around and finding holes where they can contribute.”
The Iowa High School Athletic Association shortened the season to seven games because of COVID-19 concerns, which means every game is a district contest for Stanton/Essex and the rest of Class 8-Man District 7. Grebin expects the district to be a difficult one to navigate this season, but the focus for his group will be on consistent improvement.
“We have a group of kids working hard and we need to focus on being the best we can be,” said Grebin. “We control what we can control. It’s hard to say who will show up on a Friday and we’re all in the same boat on that. They’ll represent us well, fight hard and give us everything they have.”
The Vikings open the season, Friday, Aug. 28, at home against East Union. Stanton/Essex has four home games scheduled this fall, including one in Essex, Oct. 2.