Coach Thomas Kelly has a simple request of running back Radi Tolbert this season.
"We're looking for him to do everything for us," Kelly said.
Tolbert is one of the Vikings' few veterans this season but is one of the Cape-Atlantic League's most dynamic players. He rushed for more than 600 yards and six touchdowns last season. Tolbert also caught three touchdown passes and averaged nearly 20 yards per reception.
"He's a year older, a year stronger and a year faster," Kelly said. "We expect him to do what he did last year and more. He's very hard to tackle. When you put the ball in his hands, he makes things happen."
The Vikings finished 7-4 and won the CAL American Division in Kelly's first season last year. Atlantic City also qualified for the playoffs and won the school's first postseason contest since 1999.
But many of the key players from that team have graduated.
The Vikings will still give opponents plenty to worry about, however.
"Our biggest strength is going to be our speed," Kelly said. "We have a lot of small, quick athletes, similar to what we had last year."
In addition to Tolbert, wide receiver Ismail Naji, also one of the CAL's best, returns. The 6-foot-5 senior caught 26 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns last season.
"He's a big target," Kelly said.
Jerron Searles, a 6-foot-5, 258-pound senior, leads the offensive and defensive lines. Kelly said Searles has attracted the attention of several colleges.
Atlantic City also will rely on several talented sophomores.
"We might take some lumps this year, but in a year we're going to be better and in two years we're going to be outstanding," Kelly said.
One of the sophomores slated to start is quarterback Robert Parker.
"Going into the offseason we were saying, ‘Who is going to be the quarterback?' " Kelly said. "He really stepped up. He's not super fast, but he's athletic. We are going to feature him as a runner, and he can throw as well."
Kelly also expects juniors Dayshawn Reynolds and Tyshiek Wright to be playmakers at wide receiver and defensive back.
Kelly knows the team's youth will it make tough to duplicate last season's success.
"For this group it's going to take two times the effort to get to seven wins (last year's total)," Kelly said. "But we line up to win every game. We're Atlantic City kids. We play to win every single game."
Contact Michael McGarry:
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 6
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010
PLAYOFF RECORD: 4-5
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League American/South Jersey Group IV
COACH: Thomas Kelly (7-4, one season)
2010 RECORD: 7-4
2011 PREDICTION: Spoiler - Vikings graduated several key players from last season's team but still feature several speedy athletes.
GAME TO WATCH: Friday vs. St. Augustine - Atlantic City opens the season against another young team. Last season Atlantic City rallied to beat St. Augustine 26-24 in the opener and the victory set the tone for the entire season.