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Thursday Notes: Another ACL Goes Down, Two New Tackles on Line, Pahukoa on Youth Movement
Made it back from Olympia in time to catch the last hour of today's practice. The biggest news continues to be injury related, as senior left tackle/defensive end Garek Stuart confirmed today that he has torn his ACL and MCL.
Shockingly, Stuart hopes to play next week after obtaining a custom knee brace. Team medical staff acknowledged that it is possible to play on torn knee ligaments. Earlier in the year, junior RB/LB Duke Dolphin suffered a similar injury, however the swelling was much more severe in Dolphin's case and his movement was severely impeded.
Senior right tackle/defensive end Jesse Porter missed another practice with a severe viral infection and is also out for tomorrow's Homecoming contest versus Monroe. Senior Jason Mendel will start at right tackle, and Jordan Eckstrom will move from defensive tackle to defensive end, while Justin Grow and junior Taylor Metzger will work at defensive tackle.
Mammoth junior Gunnar Ecklund has shared snaps at left tackle with Metzger in Stuart's absence, and both will play tomorrow. After practice, we had the opportunity to chat with line coach Jeff Pahukoa, and here is a summary of some the info and thoughts he shared:
- Both Metger and Ecklund have tremendous physical tools and the ability to excel, but Pahukoa said neither was quite "ready" to wrest a starting job prior to the recent injuries along the line. However, Pahukoa said that "these are our guys for next year" at tackle.
- Ecklund is a tremendous athlete who is used to having the ball in his hand. Pahukoa said Eklund was a pitcher in baseball, a center in basketball, and played quarterback and running back on youth league teams. Pahukoa said it has been a work in progress convincing Eklund that his best potential was at tackle.
- Metzger is a rugged player who is very conscientious and sometimes is too hard on himself. Pahukoa says he has made great strides, and that Eklund has a slight edge only because he has been the backup at left tackle all season, while Metzger has been a backup right tackle.
- Pahukoa said that Eklund has the frame and physical tools to play anywhere he wants (after high school), but he must dedicate himself in the weight room. Pahukoa also said he wouldn't be surprised if Eklund plays his best football under the real game conditions.
- We asked Pahukoa about junior Kody Dinh, who got his first start at right guard last week. Pahukoa said Dinh wasn't ready at the beginning of the year, but his improvement allowed the Vikes to let senior captain Alex Moon concentrate on defense.
- Pahukoa was pleased with the line's performance last week against a formidable M-P defense: the only sack allowed was on the last play of the game, and the Vikes rushed for over 150 yards against the twin 325-pound M-P defensive tackles.
Pahukoa also shared some of his coaching philosophy and why he feels it is important to earn the trust of your players. Very good stuff, but I haven't had the time to transcribe it yet. Personally, I have to say that Pahukoa is a very impressive coach. For those who haven't met him, he is very balanced and even-keel, extremely well-spoken, and seems to have ultimate credibility with his players because of his experience, knowledge, and the respect and manner in which he treats his charges.
In other news, sophomore QB Jake Nelson again got about half the snaps during team offense, but in the practice-ending two-minute drill portion, junior Bryson Daggett took all the snaps at QB. Nelson has led the JV team to a one loss season, impressing coaches with athleticism and improving decision making and accuracy. Daggett is coming off a 9 for 11, two touchdown fourth quarter performance at M-P last week.
Notebook: The players have a no-school day tomorrow ahead of Homecoming, and the coaches have scheduled a 10 am breakfast and a 11:30 am walk through in order to get the players up and moving at a decent hour...For the first time ever, the Vikings will wear purple pants with the purple top of the home jersey tomorrow night. Tri said he wants to make it a new Homecoming tradition. Tri allowed the player to vote on whether they'd wear white or purple socks. The players voted to go all purple...senior LB/RT Jason Mendel was chosen as the fourth captain for tomorrow's game.