There is a fine line between apprehension and excitement.
The foreboding feeling that accompanied East Hall coach Bryan Gray in his first season has taken a turn for the better at the start of his second year.
"Last year, I knew in April pretty much where we would fall just because of lack of experience," Gray said. "This year I’m excited to see what we have when it all gets put together."
Gray went into and ended last season knowing that experience breeds confidence.
Case in point, the 2007 Vikings tripled their points per game over the course of the season and saved their best performance for the final game, a 29-17 win over Gilmer.
With late-season momentum as the foundation, the Vikings spent the spring and summer months gaining even more experience.
They repped the fundamentals of football and, according to their coach, "attended nearly every passing league in the state."
The end result has been the tilt toward excitement.
"It’s all starting to click," Gray said. "The kids are excited, and they have a little more pep in their step.
"We want kids to be proud to wear their East Hall letter jacket, and I think that attitude is starting."
There’s an advantage to having a down year — there’s no where to go but up.
East Hall isn’t setting a goal for wins and, according to Gray, the team doesn’t have a benchmark.
They are simply trying to get better and after a 2007 season in which the offense averaged only 10 points per game, that goal is attainable.
Senior Cody Davidson and sophomore Harrison Dale will share time at the quarterback position.
"Cody (Davidson) throws a better ball, but isn’t as consistent as Harrison (Dale)," Gray said. "Harrison has more moxie in the pocket and understands what’s going on."
With an abundance of team speed and an offensive line manned by seniors, the Vikings will rely on getting receivers on the perimeter and a rushing attack that can go five deep.
"Our linemen are all intelligent and a couple have a mean streak," Gray said.
Gray said that they physicality of his receiving corps (Kiante Young, Andrew Ivester and tight ends Chaz Cheeks and Sterling Bailey) could also go a long way in springing the run game.
"If they can block and we can run, I’ll run it 100 times a game," he said.
The notable strength for East Hall’s defense this year is its linebackers.
Inside linebacker Xavier Robinson, who had 100 tackles in 2006, is back after sitting out the 2007 season with an injury. He will be joined by Jerry Rodriguez and newcomer Corey Richardson.
"Corey (Richardson) brings a new vicious element to our corps," Gray said. "He has a little more intensity than we’ve seen recently."
Young and Davidson will be the outside linebackers.
According to Gray, the team’s corners could be the best in the region, but are dealing with inconsistency.
"They are the most athletically talented kids we have," Gray said, "but they need to learn to play the game and stop thinking they can get by by being better athletes."
An improved defensive line flanked by what Gray calls, "two exceptionally talented defensive ends," in Bailey and Cheeks round out what is sure to be an improved Vikings’ defense.
Punter Christian Romero was used a lot in 2007. According to Gray, the punting unit was on the field 12-14 times per contest and was East Hall’s strongest team as a whole.
"They never got one blocked," he said.
Romero, a senior, will be counted on to do the punting again for the Vikings.
Chrisel Flores will handle field goals and kickoffs.
Gray has what he calls, "positive butterflies," this year for a reason.
Will East Hall win region? Probably not.
But thanks to experience on both sides of the ball and a newfound confidence, it is almost a certainty that the Vikings will not suffer through 50-point drubbings in 2008.
East Hall is an athletic, speedy group trying to find its niche, and this season will be one more step in the right direction.
"We can’t roll out the football and say that we are definitely going to run this play or definitely going completely with this scheme," Gray said. "We aren’t there yet.
"But it’s guaranteed we’re going to do everything we can to win."