Smoky Valley football has been struck by lightning twice in the last two seasons.

Smoky Valley football has been struck by lightning twice in the last two seasons.
That’s not necessarily a good thing.
Two years in a row, now, players presumed to be offensive leaders on the field have gone down to injury before the season has even begun. Last year, it was then-senior quarterback Ethan Loder, who broke his arm in practice just days before the season opener. Loder was out of action until the final three weeks of the season, forcing Viking head coach Chris Hattabaugh to reconfigure the offense to adjust.
This year, it was All-Central Kansas League wide receiver Jarod DeMott, who was slated to be the starting running back before he tore his ACL in June. DeMott will miss the entire season, but, unlike with Loder’s injury, the Vikings haven’t been left scrambling.
“We’ve had plenty of time to adjust now, with the summer rules,” Hattabaugh said of DeMott’s injury. “Aaron Taylor, who was a slot receiver for us last year, he’ll move to running back. We’ve been repping him there as [DeMott’s] back-up anyway, so it’s been a smooth transition. The good part is that we’ve got a lot of guys returning on the offensive line, so hopefully the holes will be there and we’ve just got to hold on to the football and do what running backs do.”
All-league senior Stephen Klaasen will anchor the offensive line for the Vikings, who are coming off a 7-2 record and went 6-0 to win the CKL last season. Joining him will be 6-foot, 190-pound senior Greg Elvin, senior Nils Peterson (6-0, 200) and Caden Byers (5-11, 210).
The front line should give plenty of holes for both Taylor and projected starting quarterback Cole Norberg, who, at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, as a great combination of size and speed to run the offense.
“Norberg is a very dangerous quarterback in the run game,” Hattabaugh said. “And he’s developed his passing game in the summer.”
Defensively, the Vikings bring back six starters from last year, which includes the front four, all of whom will have a physical presence. Klaasen is 6-4, 270 pounds, and is joined by Brix Brickey (5-10, 275), Tim Ruble (6-2, 250) and Seth Nelson (6-3, 225).
Elvin and Norberg probably have the most experience as starters for the Vikings, who went 1-2 in district play in what was the last year for the full Class 4A playoffs. Both are three-year starters for Hattabaugh on the defensive side of the ball, with Elvin leading the linebacker corps and Norberg taking all-league honors as a free safety.
The Vikings open the year with Hesston at home on Sept. 5. Home highlights before districts include Haven on Sept. 19 and Hillsboro on Oct. 3.
The district battle will include two new faces and one familiar foe, as Smoky Valley will be part of the new Class 4A Division II for football. District foes include Nickerson, Wamego and Chapman, against whom SVHS picked up their lone district win in 2013.
“It’s exciting,” Hattabaugh said of the classification split. “It brings schools like us back into the mix. That’s always a positive. Our district’s more manageable this year, so our goal’s to get there first and, from there, anything can happen.”
Of course, should Smoky Valley advance into the 4A DII playoffs in November, they will have two big mountains to conquer in the form of 4A powerhouses Andale and Holton.
“Andale will be a team that, if we don’t win our district, more than likely we’ll be going there,” Hattabaugh said. “We’ve done that in the past. When I was an assistant, we played them. If you’re going to be the best, you have to beat the best, and they’re definitely one of the best.”

Contact Chris Swick by email at and follow him on Twitter @SwickSentinel.