Vikings get ready for fall season with successful summer turnout

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CHARLO HIGH School standout quarterback Landers Smith dives forward in last year’s regular season game against Arlee. Smith, who has been the Vikings’ starting QB since his sophomore season, will enter his senior year in 2018. Smith is currently being looked at multiple colleges to continue his football playing career. (Jason Blasco/Lake County Leader)

Charlo High School coach Mike Krahn has found himself in a situation where he was forced to fuse together young talent in 2016.

The end result for Krahn and his Vikings football team was one of the most historically successful seasons in school history culminating in a second place Montana High School Activities Association Class C, 8-man football finish at the end of 2016.

This year, Krahn and his team will face a similar situation they found themselves in 2016, as they begin the preliminary steps towards preparing for the 2018 football season. Their first official day of practice is Aug. 10.

“When you look back at 2016, we basically had to replace our entire front lines and we had no idea where we were going to be at,” Krahn said.

Charlo began preparing for the 2018 season with a full padded, six game 8-man tournament this summer at Montana Tech.

“We are down a little bit from about 15 players or so and at our camp that we went through we brought 14 kids,” Krahn said. “Pretty much everyone is returning from working out of state. We had six games in two days and that is about half of our season in the full pad and full contact camp.”

Several teams from across the Pacific Northwest region participated in the camp giving the Viking’s good exposure to some of the top-tier 8-man teams in other states.

“There is a lot of good quality competition and you get an opportunity to see where we are sitting (as an 8-man football team),” Krahn said. “There were a lot of teams that you had to play from Washington, Idaho and even Prarie High School was a team that won the 8-man state in Washington. They have won it two out of three years.”

The camp allowed Krahn and the Vikings’ coaching staff a chance to evaluate players, something Krahn said was “crucial” in determining roster spots.

“That is one of the nice things about camp is that you get a chance to look at the kids that haven’t had a lot playing time,” Krahn said. “Football camp is a lot less stress because the games don’t count against you on the win-loss record. Really it is a win-win situation and it is a nice opportunity to get a preview of them. Usually you have a pretty good idea right off the bat (going into the season) about areas that you need to improve on.”

The Vikings will enter the season with arguably the best player in the state of Montana Class C football.

“We are pretty spoiled to have an all-stater as a sophomore,” Krahn said. “He’s done a lot of individual camps this summer, which is basically part of the (college) recruiting process. The typical route is by the time kids are juniors and seniors, they get a lot of playing time. Landers has played both ways and has done it for two years. He can run the show because he knows exactly how things work at Charlo football, inside and out.”

Senior lineman Brock Tomlin will be another key component in the Vikings’ quest for a Class C,8-man title. Last year Charlo fell to Forsyth Dogies in the MHSA quarterfinals of the Class C, 8-man playoffs.Krahn stated the coaching staff is expecting big things from Tomlin entering his senior season.

“Last year (Tomlin) had a good solid year starting both ways and we really expect him to be bigger, stronger and to be our leader on the line,” Krahn said. “That is really the key when you can coach on the field but can’t be there all of the time is to have sideline guys that can run the show. Our team depends on experienced lineman for leadership and to really help those young guys out.”

Headed into the season, Krahn and his staff are still ironing out the logistics of their team.

“We have to shore up some spots, we’ve got kids that are working and it is interesting that you just never know where are you are going to be,” Krahn said. “In 8-man football there is no prototypical lineman. Someone standing at 170 pounds can be effective with their speed and technique in 8-man and can be really successful using their athleticism. So far our kids have been willing to do what they need to do to be successful. Getting good lineman and players that look and play like lineman will be one of our issues. During the season we might have to fill in spots and do some shuffling. It will be new because we will have a little experience on the line.”

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