VAN — Last season, the Van Bulldogs were described as a young team. They started the season 0-4, but the young Bulldogs caught fire and won five of its last six games to finish with an overall 5-5 record.
“By the end of last year, we had gained lots of experience and we were playing as good as anyone in Class A,” said Van Head Coach Steve Price.
This year, the team returns all of its starting offensive players and all but two on the defensive side of the ball. It also includes a transfer player and two freshman.
“We are very excited about this year’s team,” Price said. “This is the group we have been waiting on. We are expecting a big year.”
Van is returning sophomore runningback Brady Grant. He was somewhat of a freshman sensation last year after recording over 1,400 rushing yards.
“He is one of the best backs in Class A this year,” Price said. “No doubt about it.”
Logan Crouse is expected to return as the team’s staring quarterback.
“Logan’s experience and knowledge of our offense gives him a great opportunity this season,” Price explained. “He is a smart guy with talent and speed.”
Price says that even though many players are returning, everyone must earn their position on the team.
“Returners have to work just a hard as the new guys,” he said. “We want players that remain hungry and work hard to get on the field.”
Van is not a big team, Price admits, but it uses multiple sets and a high power passing game, if needed. The offensive line returns several starters, but they are still somewhat undersized against some teams.
“There are things we’re going to do regardless, but depending on our opponent each week, we will have multiple sets on the offensive side of the ball,” according to Price. “We know there are some teams we just can’t lineup and play smash mouth style of football with, but we have the speed and quickness to beat anyone in Class A.”
Last season, Van tightend Cole Price caught 40 passes for over 700 receiving yards. He is also returning to this year’s squad.
“The success Cole had and the team had with the passing attack opened up the running game for us last year,” Price explained. “We are expecting even more this season with the overall speed and talent we have on this team.”
On defense, the Bulldogs return middle linebacker Greg Lail, now a senior. Also senior Jordan Hartwell, a defensive lineman, returns. Hartwell has started for the past three seasons. Cole Price will also return to the defensive side of the football as a defensive end.
Price says the 2015 Van Bulldog varsity football team is one of the fastest he has coached as he enters his 7th year as head coach.
“We are hoping to avoid injuries and to get off to a better start than we did last season,” said Price.
The team opens the season on the road on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. at Meadow Bridge High School. Meadow Bridge was a Class A playoff team last season.
“This should be a good measuring stick right off the bat,” Price said. “If we can win the opener, it will set us up right away as a playoff contender for this season. This season opening game is very big for us.”
Fred Pace is an editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-369-1165, ext. 1661, in Madison; at 304-752-6950, ext. 1729 in Logan; by email at email@example.com or @fcpace62 on Twitter.