Vikings look to rebound from dreadful seasonBy: Cameron Salerno
Seven games into the 2018 season and Oakmont has already has surpassed their win mark from a season ago. That sort of growth has Oakmont head coach John Hunter excited for what his team has in store.
“Our team is playing better and (we’re) getting wins that we didn’t get early in the season last year,” Hunter said. “We have a different group of kids this year.”
The Vikings return seven players from last year’s team that finished the season 4-23. Oakmont also adds some youth in a pair of sophomores in Cory Snyder and Nate Greenfield.
Nothing will make or break the Vikings though than leading scorers from last year in Grahm Spitzer (6.7 points per game in 2017–18) and Josh Ganub (5.5). Max Bumgarner, who also played big minutes last year, returns as the team’s leading rebounder with 4.4 boards a game.
“We have a lot of key returning players from last year that played significant minutes,” said Hunter. “Also, I think bringing in (Snyder and Greenfield) has really energized us and given our team a little more youth. So far, it has really been a team effort, night in and night out.”
After a dreadful year of struggles in the Capital Valley Conference, the Vikings got a breath of fresh air when they were aligned to the new Foothill Valley League this past spring. But according to Hunter, that won’t be a cakewalk either.
“The FVL is a tough league,” Hunter confessed. “There are a lot of established programs in the conference. Although I think it is a better fit for us, it is still a very competitive league.”
The FVL features the likes of Lincoln, Ponderosa, Placer, Nevada Union and Rio Linda, who may all equally challenge the Vikings at the top of the standings. Oakmont and Placer have had some familiarity over the years despite being in different conferences, including last year’s meeting in the Kendall Arnett Tournament – an 83-44 defeat at the hands of the Hillmen.
“(Placer) is one of the top teams in this conference,” said Hunter. “They are really well-coached and I think it will bring more excitement because it is a league game. Every game in league matters.”
With the Vikings starting the season at 5-2 after a 61-51 win Tuesday at Bella Vista, they are off to their best start since the 2009–10 season. In that year, Oakmont made it all the way to the section championship before losing to Woodcreek. Despite the hot start, Hunter will look to take it one game at a time.
“(Making the playoffs) is all about how we continue to grow and play as a team,” Hunter said. “We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but if we keep playing hard and doing what we are supposed to do, I think this team can go as far as it wants to.”
The Vikings close out non-conference with the Rosemont Tournament this weekend, the Mike Takayama Memorial at Del Oro Dec. 20–22 and the Kendall Arnett Tournament at Placer Dec. 27–29 before opening up league with Lincoln on Jan 8.