St. Bernard High School football coach Greg Dixon expects one main factor to make a difference in his team’s path to a playoff spot this season — experience.

The Vikings have struggled with inexperience the past two seasons, as a number of young players were on the roster.

The team was winless two years ago but improved to a 2-8 overall record last season.

By capturing their two victories in Del Rey League play last year, the Vikings managed to finish in fourth place in the league, but missed out on a chance at reaching the playoffs.

This year Dixon expects the outcome to be different, as a number of experienced players are coming back. St. Bernard has six players returning on offense and seven players on defense.

“Coming in this year we definitely have a lot more experience with our senior and junior group,” Dixon said.

Dixon, who is entering his 11th season as Vikings coach, said St. Bernard has not had that type of experience in recent years, which will make a difference in the team’s ability to turn its record around and reach the playoffs this season.

“We definitely expect to be a playoff team this year,” Dixon said. “We expect to be in the hunt for a league championship.”

Some returning players who are expected to lead the team offense are junior quarterback Ryan Simpson, senior wide receiver Jeremy Laney, senior fullback Byron Brown, senior offensive tackle Armon Wright, senior offensive guard Lisandro Jimenez and senior center Alex Medina.

Several players are slated to contribute to the Viking running game, which Dixon said will be “pretty solid.”

Some players expected to step up on defense are junior linebacker Greg Walker, senior defensive end Kyle Smith and junior linebacker Louis Hill.

“I think we’ll be pretty solid up front,” Dixon said. “We haven’t been as strong up front in the past and it’s been a major problem for us.”

While Dixon is confident that the Vikings can challenge for the league title this season, he acknowledges that it’s a difficult ambition because of the strength of the league.

If the Vikings are to hoist the league championship trophy this season, they will have to get past such tough league opponents as Serra High School and defending league champion Crespi High.

St. Bernard will open the new season at home against Culver City High School at 7 p.m. Friday, September 8th. The Vikings lost a close game 15-12 to Culver City in last year’s season opener.

Dixon said the Vikings face a “solid” pre-league season schedule that will help prepare them for their run at the league crown.

The team will play its first league game against host Harvard-Westlake High School Friday, October 13th.

“I think every game will be tough for us,” Dixon said of this season’s schedule.

If St. Bernard expects to jump back to a winning team and contend for the playoffs this year, the coach said the Vikings will need to focus on controlling the ball and stopping their opponents’ running game.

The Vikings have worked hard in the off-season and are ready to make some noise this season, he said.

“We’re excited,” Dixon said. “Everyone is looking forward to this year.”

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