Scouting the Fremd Vikings
Fremd found a way to keep its ship from sinking last year. Now the Vikings are looking to sail away.
Fremd appeared to be on its way to another disastrous season after going 1-8 in 2017. The Vikings had lost their first three games and were staring at the possibility of a second consecutive losing year.
However, they were able to turn things around, winning five of their final six games to capture a share of the Mid-Suburban League West title and qualify for the playoffs.
Coach Lou Sponsel said that it took a few weeks to get the ship moving in the right direction.
"I think we forgot how to win," Sponsel said. "I am not sure if it was because we were nomads and didn't have a home early in the season. But once our kids tasted that first win, it clicked and they were off."
Fremd will return 17 starters from last year's team that had as many as nine sophomores starting at one point. The Vikes also return eight juniors who also started at times last year.
"This is like the sequel," Sponsel said. "These kids took everything from our seniors from last year that they passed down. The underclassmen soaked up all of that and now they are running with it on their own."
One of those biggest changes came when the Vikings changed quarterbacks from Andrew Saxe to his brother Ryan. That freed up Andrew to move to a wide receiver position while Ryan was able to grow at the quarterback position and finish with 842 passing yards and 5 touchdowns along with 566 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns.
"We learned as a coaching staff to play our kids in better spots," Sponsel said. "I think the kids trusted the system and the program and stuck with it. It really came down to the kids and they found a way to win."
The Vikings will have a huge hole to fill at running back with the loss of Nicky Rattin and his 1,122 yards to graduation. Sponsel will be looking to Brian Hardy, who played fullback last year, to step into the role of the main ball carrier.
Fremd will be solid at the wide receiver spot with Andrew Saxe, Jack Hipchen, Ryan Palmer all back from last year. Greg Harmon should also be in that mix along with Josh Jorian.
With a plethora of talented receivers, Fremd may not be in its traditional run-first offense.
"Fremd has always been run-first," Sponsel said. "It might be a little bit flipped this year."
But when the Vikings do run, they will look to power the ball behind junior Jack Walsh (6-foot-4, 285 pounds). Walsh, who started last year as sophomore, is very athletic and also plays basketball, will be the next in a long streak of Division-I offensive linemen that Fremd has produced.
Walsh will be joined on the offensive line by Marlon Martinez (6-1, 225), Logan Bayer (6-1, 210), Will Stearny (6-1, 231) along with Matthew Rodi (6-0, 242), Sam Carver (6-1, 240) and Zach Wascow (6-3, 251).
Fremd will also be looking to match the success it had on defense from last year. The Vikings allowed 83 points in their first three games and then just 81 total points in the final seven, where they didn't allow a team to score more than 21 points.
On defense, Walsh, who will go both ways this season, will anchor the front four. He will get plenty of help from Carver, Rodi, Tafara Okammor, Anthony Villano and Vincent Villano.
At linebacker, Jason Haas and Trey Castella, who both started at the outside linebacker position last year as sophomores, will reprise their roles. Chris Skaria, who also is a junior, will start in the middle.
Joey Rattin, also a junior, will move to safety this year. Andrew Saxe and Hipchen, who both played in the secondary, will also be back. Nate Stevens will be the fourth member of the defensive backfield.
The Vikings may have the toughest start of any team in the area. They host traditional power Lake Zurich in the season opener. They then travel to play MSL East favorite Hersey before hosting always tough Maine South before traveling to play Evanston before heading into MSL play.
A good start to the season is important to Sponsel.
"Those first four games will be a fun thing for us," Sponsel said. "You come out of that schedule and you are tested. You know who you are after that."