ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — No football team in the NIC-10 made bigger strides last year than the Guilford Vikings did. They challenged for the conference championship right down to the final week of the regular season. Now the Vikings will try to prove that was no fluke.

“We are not going to sneak up on anybody this year,” said third-year head coach Tony Capriotti. “And secondly, it’s the NIC-10, somebody from that bottom part is gonna jump up, and every week’s a dog fight.”

The Vikings finished 7-and-3 last season with their first playoff appearance since 2013. They lost to Batavia in the first round.

“We are coming out same energy, if not harder,” said junior two-way lineman James Benson. “We took them two losses, we are going to take that personally.”

Senior lineman Jayceon Scott says the guys have given their all preparing for a potentially big year. “I knew I had one more year here so I knew I had to just hurry up and get back into the weight room, and get other guys involved and be ready to build onto my senior year.”

The Vikings lost some key talent with the graduation of running back Jayvon Jones and lineman Gannon Buckner, but they have plenty of guys this year to fill in the holes.

“We got a whole team full of dogs,” said Benson. “You hear me? It’s a fresh start, we are coming out hard, coming out hittin’ all season.”

(The look of the Vikings this year is much younger, but Coach Cap says their depth is one of the strongest pieces of the team this year.

“We have a lot of young guys that are competing for spots right now, we have about 11, 12 starters returning, but it’s going to be really interesting to see how it shakes out.”

They’ll have a familiar face under center with Skyler Wolf returning as the quarterback. He was a difference-maker last year. This season, the Vikings are looking for even more intensity on the offensive side of the ball.

“I still think throughout the year we had moments where the offense kind of sputtered a little bit in parts of games,” said Capriotti. “Seeing how fast we can
adjust mid-game is going to be a big thing for us this year.”

Other key guys to watch this season will be wide receivers LaDamion Hoffman and Jaidyn Nguyen. Those are two guys with a lot of speed. Jayceon Scott is one of the senior lineman leading the squad now. This will be his fourth year starting at center.

“Me coming back as a senior, a starting senior, and Mikel Reynolds, we are just like bringing the younger guys up to be at the same level that we can be and play as a team.”