PRIDE — When a football team returns only six starters from its previous season, coaches often use the word “rebuilding” to describe their task ahead.
That word is not in Northeast coach Dave Masterson’s vocabulary.
The Vikings lose 10 of 11 starters on defense from last year’s squad, which advanced to the state semifinals, losing to Many 35-12. It was the third time in 12 years they had advanced to the semis and the 11th time in 13 seasons they made a playoff appearance.
“I don’t believe in that,” Masterson said. “We’ll just stick more bullets in the gun, and we’ll reload. We’ve got enough guys coming back that I know we can be competitive. I don’t like to hear excuses or make excuses; that’s a mindset. We’re going to play hard and physical, and we will hit you.”
Masterson has overhauled his coaching staff on both sides of the football to bring in some new ideas. That includes the addition of Barry “Tut” Musemeche as offensive coordinator and Damian Jackson as wide receivers coach. Johnny Felder is defensive coordinator and Joseph English will coach the defensive line.
“It brings us a little more energy and new ideas,” Masterson said. “Sometimes, a team can get a little stale, and that’s when it’s time to make changes.”
Returning to anchor the defense is senior tackle Leroy Roddy, a composite All-State defender who registered 41 solo tackles, 49 assists, nine tackles for loss and 31/2 sacks in 10 games.
“The talent level is fine, we’re just inexperienced,” Masterson said. “We’ve had bigger lines in the past, but we’ll be smaller but faster.”
The Vikings return five offensive starters plus two more players who started at least three games and saw significant playing time.
“I’m a run guy; we’re always going to be a running team,” Masterson said. “I believe when you can run the football, you control the clock. We’re still going to run it, but we’ll have a different look.”
Starting at quarterback will be Quinshaw Kelly, who Masterson said is the best pure athlete on the squad. Tyriq Kelly is the tailback and started three games as a freshman. Another running back is Cameron Manning, who will see plenty of action. Returning wide receivers are Roman Parker, Keelum Hogan and freshman Johnny Selders.
“The cupboard is not bare,” Masterson said. “We’ll make some youthful mistakes early, but we’ll gel as the season progresses.”
The Vikings always have an ambitious schedule because Masterson believes in playing up early to prepare his team for stronger competition down the road.
They open up with the Scotlandville Jamboree on Aug. 28 then play at Walker on Sept. 4 to begin the regular season.
The Vikings will face Baker at home followed by a road game at Glen Oaks. Then they open District 7-2A play against Dunham, Christian Life, Madison Prep, Episcopal, Capitol, Mentorship Academy and East Feliciana.
“There’s so much to teach going into the season, I wish we could have another month,” Masterson said. “Every year is new, there’s something new and exciting. There’s going to be a problem, or there’s going to be an incident; you always have to deal with something. And there’s always something to make you laugh.”