After leading Huntington North to its most victories in a season in the 21st century, Craig Teagle is wanting to take the next step with his program.
It involves one word: toughness.
“We got out-toughed in some of our big games last year,” said Teagle, who has won 52 games in three seasons at Huntington North after a long career at Jay County. “You can have all the skills you want, but we need to be tougher mentally and physically. That’s the difference between being a good team and a great team.”
The Vikings were pretty darn good a year ago. The 19 victories were the most since the 20-win campaign of 1998-99. But the season ended on their home floor in a one-point loss to Homestead in the sectional final.
That game has stuck with Teagle.
“We got beat to so many long rebounds,” Teagle said.
While leading scorer Mitch Geller (10.6 ppg) has graduated, the Vikings return a lot of experience. Sawyer Stoltz, Zach Daugherty and Hank Pulver are a trio of seniors that could rival almost any other local team’s top three. All averaged at least 9.3 points a game last season and have plenty of varsity experience.
“Those three along with (senior Trey Williams) need to lead us,” Teagle said. “Those are the four back that had significant playing time.”
Fellow senior Keegan Bartrom saw close to eight minutes a game last year and will fill a role at the shooting guard spot. Junior Deven Newcomb ran the point on the JV team last year and will move up to varsity. Newcomb will see some time at point guard for the varsity, allowing Daugherty to play more off the ball and get more open looks on the outside.
Defending is always a strength for the Vikings, who allowed just 43 points per game last year. Rebounding could be a question, with Geller having led the team in that category last season.
Teagle is one of those coaches where you pencil in at least 10 wins. His teams have finished in double digits in wins every year since 2002.
This Huntington North team has enough talent and skill to keep that streak alive.
Could the Vikings compete with East Noble atop the NE8? Time will tell.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Huntington North seems to lack that primary scorer that can take control when the game is on the line. Maybe one of the talented seniors is that guy.
Rebounding could also be a concern.
DEC. 8 AT EAST NOBLE
The Vikings don’t have to wait long to get their shot at the NE8 favorite. Last year, Huntington North fell by six in January to Knights, one of those games in which Teagle lacked the mental and physical toughness late in the contest.
Is this year’s team different? We will find out in early December.