NEW MIAMI — Mason Stephens understands the type of role he’ll have to play as the New Miami High School football team’s starting quarterback.
More importantly, the Vikings will undoubtedly look at him as a veteran leader — the only returning senior in 2023.
“For me, I’m just trying to lead and be a good role model,” Stephens said. “There’s definitely a lot of good energy going around, and it seems like they’re into it and want to play.”
The Vikings, who are coming off an 0-10 season, are now under the direction of new head coach Chris Fogle. He said the transition hasn’t been flawless, but it’s gone smoothly.
“We’re trying to bring some pride back into the school,” said Fogle, who was hired in April after coaching three seasons at Twin Valley South. “They’ve had a rough spot, but they’re still a very prideful, small-school community — which I’m used to.”
New Miami is aiming to bounce back from a couple of down years after hosting their first-ever home playoff game in a 45-15 loss to New Bremen in 2019 when the Vikings had a 10-0 regular season.
New Miami won the Miami Valley Conference Gray Division three years in a row from 2018-2020.
“I want to bring that atmosphere back and that pride that they have. It will all build from there,” Fogle said. “It’s just a matter of getting kids back out there and getting them excited about playing. It’s not always about wins and losses but trying to get that pride and motivation back and getting them to be a part of something.
“That’s what we’re trying to do — everyone is all in, every play,” Fogle added. “It’s part of our motto that we say every day. And that’s, ‘All in.’ And it’s not just all in for football — the school, the community, academics — just being a part of everything. Then wins and losses take care of themselves.”
The Vikings are traditionally put in position to play multiple two-way starters from their roster of 18, according to Fogle.
Junior running back and linebacker Dalson Hayes, a returner from last year’s squad, is one of them.
“The focus is to be disciplined — to be here,” Hayes said. “We want to win some games. We don’t want to go 0-10. We want to win some games — hopefully win the conference and make the playoffs.
“We’re not just building football players out here,” Hayes added. “Coach has said it, and I thought it was kind of cliché at first, but we’re building men. I see everybody out here trying to change the culture. Everybody is happier. We’re not doing dumb stuff in the locker room. It’s really good. The focus is for us to be disciplined and win some football games.”
New Miami opens on the road against Gamble Montessori on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Stargel Stadium in Cincinnati.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Stephens tossed for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns during his junior season. He also was the team’s leading rusher with 371 yards three touchdowns on the ground.
“The goal is always to at least make the playoffs and win a game,” Stephens said. “If you could go further than that would be really good. We want to earn respect from people that think we aren’t really anything or no good when we are.”
Hayes returns after having a stellar junior season defensively with 57 tackles. He will see his running back load expand as well.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and they’re really excited to play,” Hayes said. “It’s good to get some new faces in here — new people. We have a great coaching staff, new coaching staff. We’re running a lot of new plays and a lot of new defenses. I’m really excited. I think it’s bringing everybody hope for us to play for New Miami again.”
Fogle said the offensive and defensive lines will be young, but key to the program’s success this season. Junior lineman Dalton Gentry is the only returning player in the trenches.
“The kids are buying into the system, and we have increased the intensity on defense,” Fogle said. “I know we will have success this year and are building for continued success for many years to come.”
Other players to watch are juniors Sam Mayer (WR/DB/K) and Jason Wyatt (RB/LB).
“There are a lot of younger people who are really wanting to step it up and show people what we can do altogether,” Stephens said.
Rounding out the New Miami roster is junior Josh Schnetzer (WR/DB); sophomores Hayden Stephens (OL/DL), Jacob Curtis (TE/DL), Alex Levline (OL/DL) and Cayden Schnetzer (WR/LB); and freshmen Logan Lucas (OL/DL), Isaiah Johnson (OL/DL), Peyton Johnson (TE/LB), Bryton McNamee (OL/DL), Brian Holtzberger (QB/DB), Shane Hall (OL/DL), Noah Henry (WR/DB) and Tyler Pruitt (OL/DL).
“Obviously we want to do better than we did last year,” Fogle said. “This is about making it an experience for them so they can carry on to next year. It’s going to be about building, but we have a lot of talent. We have a lot of size. … It’s just a matter of getting them to do everything.”
“We’ve had a rough few seasons. Everybody was down and not wanting to play,” Hayes said. “A good group of guys went before us. Everybody was like, ‘We can’t live up to that. We can’t live up to that.’ But we don’t have to. We have to be ourselves, go out there and give it all we’ve got. So a lot of guys are excited to be out here and play. There’s a lot of new faces — a lot of people that I never thought I would see play football for New Miami. Here they are. Everybody is excited to get out there and win some games.”
IN THE KNOW
Fogle took over for Andy Stuckert, who is in his first season as Talawanda’s head coach. … Fogle was an assistant coach at Trotwood Madison and a coordinator at Dixie and Preble Shawnee before taking the head football coach job at Twin Valley South.