With a refurbished home stadium, Northern Lebanon head coach Jason Rice also hopes for a refurbished team to go with it.

The Vikings’ playpen, Frederick Gahres Stadium, received a major facelift in the offseason – including new entrances, a pavilion deck at the north end zone in front of the grassy knoll, new concessions and a fieldhouse for the players. The playing surface also got a facelift, but remains grass.

Northern Lebanon’s Frederick Gahres Stadium received a major facelift in the offseason. (Will Trostel)

“It’s on the same patch of ground,” Rice said, “but I can assure you, it is not the same. State-of-the-art stuff.”

Northern Lebanon’s collective character is exemplified by junior lineman Ethan Hughes’ hustle. Extra effort has become a standard under Vikings head coach Jason Rice. (WIll Trostel)

Inhabiting the new old space is a Northern Lebanon squad that split its first four games a year ago before ending its campaign on a six-game skid, to finish 2-8 overall in the maiden voyage of Lancaster-Lebanon Section 5, created when L-L absorbed Berks County teams for football. 

Despite being classified a 4A school, NL was slotted in Section 5. An attractive grouping to be playing in on paper, it did not go according to plan. 

“Honestly, I think it was our (over-)confidence,” Rice replied when asked what derailed last year’s season. “We thought very highly of ourselves. Not that we were looking down on our section, but we did think that we could compete. So when our backs were up against the wall, some of those teams we thought we would have success against, we didn’t really succeed, from that aspect.”

Northern Lebanon assistant coach Josh Thompson walks his players through a drill. The Vikings hope to be players in Section Five of the Lancaster-Lebanon League this year. (Will Trostel)

Sophomore quarterback Kael Erdman, who started the last couple of games a year ago, takes control of the Multiple Spread in Fredericksburg. Erdman, 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, had some success during his end-of-season cameo, but also had James Voight to throw to. Voight is now a walk-on Penn State.

“Kael showed that he has what it takes,” his head coach said. “His style does revolve around him staying in the pocket. Now, my offense does blend in a little bit of RPO with that drop-back style, and that’s the aspect I’m diving deeper into with him. He can still utilize the mental aspects of being an RPO quarterback to be successful.”

Speedy Myles Watson returns as the top running back for the Vikings. “Myles already has the skill set that makes him dangerous in space, and we’re working with him to help develop his patience in the box, which has gotten a lot better,” Rice said. 

Tanner Feagley, an all-conference defensive end last year, assumes the top receiver spot from Voight. “Quick off the edge, quick and physical player,” Rice said. Feagley actually saw time on the offensive line last year, in a pinch, and performed admirably.

Moises Gonzalez lines up opposite Feagley. He’ll also see time at back in certain packages. All-state linebacker Luke Shaffer, at 6-2, 225, mans the tight end position. “If you throw it in his vicinity, with his wingspan, it’s likely to be caught,” Rice said. 

The offensive line is undersized a bit, according to Rice, but it does not concern him. “Our guys are smart and quick and explosive off the snap of the football,” he said.

Eli Thompson and Hayden Adams, both juniors, return at tackle, both having started since their freshman years.

The 4-2-5 defense is back. “We’re not the biggest, but we move fairly well,” Rice said. “We’re able to bring some pressure.”

Thompson, Adams and Feagley will figure on the line, the latter at DE.

Shaffer’s presence at linebacker, as QB of the defense, will be without a doubt the other team’s key on Friday nights. 

“It brings a sense of comfort, knowing that you have a kid like him back there,” Rice said. “His ability to play smart, shed blockers and get to the football in hurry is impressive.” Shaffer clocked a school-record 141.5 tackles last season.

The secondary features a freshman, Bryce Yocum, who Rice is excited about. Yocum will start at what the program calls the “jack” position, an outside linebacker/strong safety hybrid.

“The kid’s gonna be good. He’s still growing, but his ability to understand and play the position is what’s earned him the nod for it,” Rice said of Yocum. “He’ll hold that down.”

Gonzalez pairs with Yocum on the other side. 

Brendan Ryan will start at free safety. “(Ryan) might be one of the fastest kids on our team,” Rice said. “And he’s gained the confidence in tackling whoever, wherever, whenever. He’s not afraid to hit some people.”

At a recent practice, Northern Lebanon pays attention to the finest of details. The Vikings will open their season on Friday with a road test at rival Pine Grove. (Will Trostel)

Rice’s main goal for the Vikings in 2023 is simple.

“We want to compete in every game,” the third-year head man said. “We’re not trying to dial it down to ‘we want this many wins’. We want to be in the game in every fourth quarter, no matter which opponent we’re playing.” 

Northern Lebanon Vikings

Read all our coverage of the Vikings here.


Head Coach: Jason Rice

Assistant Coaches: Mark Rice, Josh Thompson, John Heisey, Josh Wolfe, Rusty Wallace, Hunter Wallace, Collin Wall

Jersey NumberNameGradePosition
2Bryan Mitzel10WR/DB
3Moises Gonzalez12WR/LB
4Kael Erdman10QB/LB
5Julian Rivera9QB/WR/DB
7Brendan Ryan11WR/DB
8Luke Shaffer12TE/LB
10Bryce Yocum9TE/LB
11Tanner Feagley12WR/DE
12Kaleb Barr10WR/DB
14Riley Messinger11K/P
17Owen Dohner9WR/DE
18Sincere Perez10RB/LB
19Garrett Bohn11K
20Jack Kleisath9RB/LB
21Corey Jackson11RB/DE
22Kade Erdman12WR/DB
23Eli Ostermayer12RB/LB
25Brady Ryan9WR/DB
27Jaxin Bush9WR/LB
29Myles Watson11RB/DB
30Raheim Rushton11WR/DE
42Joe Billig9WR/DB
43Jasper Uhler10WR/DB
51Matthew Chernich10OL/DL
52Russell Beers11OL/DL
55Kyle Hitz12OL/LB
57Eli Thompson11OL/DE
60Christian Peiffer10OL/DL
62Hayden Adams11OL/DL
66Caleb Wright10OL/DL
68Bryce Wimer11OL/DL
73Ethan Hughes11OL/DL
74Kale Loser11OL/DL
77Andrew Stohler11OL/DL
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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect number of tackles by Luke Shaffer in the previous season. We sincerely regret the error.

Jeff Dewees has written about sports for more than 30 years, with local stops including the Patriot-News, York Daily Record, Hummelstown Sun and Carlisle Sentinel. He resides in North Lebanon Township.


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