The Atlantic City High School football team begins a new era in more ways than one this season.
The Vikings finished 8-3 and reached the South Jersey Group V semifinals last season.
But they will feature several newcomers as they graduated several dynamic players, including wide receiver and defensive back Dayshawn Reynolds and quarterback Jarren McBryde.
Reynolds caught 10 touchdown passes and was one of the Cape-Atlantic League's best players, while McBryde threw for more than 2,000 yards. Atlantic City could start as many as eight sophomores this season.
"We graduated some very good seniors, once-in-a-lifetime type seniors," Vikings coach Thomas Kelly said. "Some of our sophomores are going to be in key, key positions."
The Vikings also will play their home games on a new artificial turf field.
But the field comes with a price.
It will be not be finished until October, so Atlantic City will play its first four games on the road and not have its season opener until its hosts Buena Regional on Oct. 18.
The Vikings will play just three homes games all season.
"We're excited about the new field," Kelly said. "We want to have the same facilities - if not better - as other folks and we're moving in that direction.
"But at the same time we're not happy about starting on the road. We're going to be a young team. We'd much rather have sophomores at home. We're going to have to deal with giving away the home-field advantage."
The Vikings will rely on their few veterans. Senior Grant Nutly leads the offensive and defensive lines. Wide receiver Isiah Graves averaged nearly 12 yards per catch last season.
Since there are so few of them, the Atlantic City veterans will play an especially key role this season.
"The coaches can holler and scream and try to implement things," Kelly said, "but when the players take the lead and younger players see how the older players work it always helps out the coaching staff."
Among the Atlantic City newcomers are quarterback candidates Don Daniel and Jamir Prevard.
"The idea is," Kelly said, "that if the young guys grow up quickly we'll have some success. We're probably going to take some lumps and be better off for it in the future."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Coach: Thomas Kelly (three seasons, 21-11)
League/Group: Cape-Atlantic League American Conference/South Jersey Group V
Last season's record: 8-3
Playoff appearances: 7
Playoff record: 5-6
2013 prediction: Rebuilding – Vikings must replace a dynamic senior class that led the team to the South Jersey Group V semifinals last season.
Key game: Oct. 18 vs. Buena Regional – After four straight road games, Atlantic City plays its home opener on its new turf field.
Key players: Ahmaad Williams, Sr., LB/RB, 5-11, 183; Robert Parker, Sr., WR/LB, 6-0, 185; Don Daniel, Sr., QB, 6-0, 170; Na'eem Santiago, Sr., OL/LB, 6-0, 188; Isiah Graves, Sr., WR, 6-2, 192; Francisco Reyes, Jr., DB, 5-8, 164; Aquan Conoway, So., LB, 5-10, 170; Jamir Prevard, So., QB, 6-0, 168; Javier Lora, So., DB, 5-9, 160; Deon Davis, Jr., LB, 5-10, 209; Naeem Molley, Sr., WR, 5-11, 162; Kennedy Farquharson, Jr., DE, 6-1, 187; Grant Nutly, Sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 257; Geno McIntosh, Sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 238; Dennis White, Sr., WR, 6-5, 205.