The Whitman football team has some big shoes to fill after the graduation of running back Zac Morton.
Morton, now a freshman on the University of Maryland football team, was the focal point of the Vikings offense in 2013. As a senior, he accounted for 1,704 yards of total offense, including 1,499 on the ground, and scored 17 touchdowns. Morton’s contributions helped Whitman to a 7-3 record, but the Vikings missed the playoffs by a narrow margin.
Entering the 2014 season, Whitman will need to find a way to compensate for the loss of its best player. Eighth-year head coach Jim Kuhn said the Vikings will look to throw the ball more on offense, using a more balanced approach to help offset the loss of Morton.
Senior quarterback Evan Smith, a 5-foot-9 left-hander, returns for his second varsity season. He completed 49 percent of his passes for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns, and was intercepted 10 times as a junior. He’ll be relied upon to make a bigger impact in 2014.
“Last year it was, 'Zac is our feature, you just make a play here and there, don’t lose a game and we’re good.' Now, [quarterback Evan Smith] needs to step into that role of being the leader and taking us to the win.”
--- Whitman football coach Jim Kuhn
“The last couple years we’ve been a run-first team,” Kuhn said. “We’re going to be kind of a 50-50 run-pass team. We’ll throw the ball around a little bit. Evan is coming back at quarterback with a year’s experience under his belt , so we need him to step up.
“… Last year it was, 'Zac is our feature, you just make a play here and there, don’t lose a game and we’re good.' Now, [Smith] needs to step into that role of being the leader and taking us to the win.”
Smith will have a pair of tall targets to work with. Anton Casey, a 6-foot-3 tight end, is committed to Brown.
“Things like [Smith] to Anton,” Kuhn said, “are going to be a big part of what we do.”
Kuhn said Casey needs to be able to take a short pass and turn it into a long gain.
“I look for him to really cause people matchup problems,” Kuhn said. “He’s going to be tough against any linebacker. I look for him to be a real leader in the pass game. … He’s as good a tight end as there is in Montgomery County.”
Kuhn’s son, junior Jake Kuhn, is a 6-foot-4 basketball player who can make plays at receiver.
“He’s got excellent hands, runs excellent routes,” Jim Kuhn said, “and being a coach’s son, he’s been around the game his whole life.”
Whitman will use a running-back-by-committee approach, led by seniors Jacob Pittsenberger and Nick Panlibuton.
The Vikings return four starters on the offensive line: left tackle Alec Gould, guards Jonah Brain and Alec Spear, and center Riley Lewis.
On defense, senior Matt McClanahan and Pittsenberger will be impact players.
Whitman will scrimmage at Landon at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23. The Vikings will open the season at home against Blake at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5.