The St. Bernard High School Vikings of Playa del Rey will enter the 2004 football season with a focus on controlling the football on the field.

The Vikings ended last season with an 8-4 record and a third-place finish in the Del Rey League.

With league victories over Cathedral, Bosco Tech and Bishop Montgomery, the Vikings earned a spot in the playoffs, where they lost in the second round to Morningside High School.

In order to improve on its efforts of last year, the mostly young team needs to focus on the offense this season, coach Greg Dixon said.

“This year the basic thing is to control the football,” Dixon said. “We need to keep the defense off the field.”

Many players graduated this year, and St. Bernard will look to some of its experienced athletes for direction and leadership, he said.

“They’re a pretty young group,” Dixon said.

Some key returning players who will help lead the team this season include last year’s all-league athletes, senior cornerback Kevin Cox and senior offensive tackle Ryan Payne.

Senior Anthony Fernandez will help control the offense as starting quarterback.

The Vikings will also get help from some experienced varsity players, including junior wide receiver and strong safety Kamron Brown, and junior Steven Aguilera, who will start as running back, Dixon said.

The game schedule will offer its share of challenges this season for the Vikings, and the team will have to go through a couple of obstacles in the first two games at home.

The new season kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, September 10th, when St. Bernard will battle Culver City, a team that made the semifinals in the playoffs last year.

The Vikings will then face Cerritos Valley Christian at 7 p.m. Friday, September 17th.

“It’s a tough opener and Valley Christian is always good,” the Viking coach said.

“The whole schedule is pretty tough.”

St. Bernard will play its first league game against Bosco Tech at 7 p.m. Friday, October 15th, in Playa del Rey.

The Vikings have to finish their schedule off against the league’s top two teams, Serra and Crespi.

Although Dixon says team expectations for the season are not too high, the Vikings will try to make an impact in the league by focusing on executing a strong offense.

“We have a lot of inexperience, so we’ll have to wait and see,” Dixon said. “Hopefully we’ll be ready to go and prepare for a league title.”