Drew Heinen (Vinton HS)

Vinton quarterback Drew Heinen threw for 1,132 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

Heading into head coach Tarius Davis’ ninth season, the Vinton Lions are looking forward to the 2019 season with 15 returning starters.

Vinton is on the verge of tying the school record for consecutive playoff appearances after making their sixth consecutive last year. Vinton had a seven-year playoff run from 1997 to 2003.

Vinton will take on Grand Lake at 5 p.m. on August 29 to kickoff the first day of the SPOT  Therapy/Billy Navarre Jamboree at Sulphur High School. The Lions will open the regular season at home against St. Edmund on September 6 at 7 p.m.

Here is a look at five Lions to keep an eye on this season.

Jaden Carrier

Junior, Wide receiver

5-9, 150 pounds

NOTES: After a breakout sophomore season, Carrier will take on a bigger role this season on offense, defense and special teams. He caught 28 passes for 561 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018 and returned two kickoffs and a punt for a touchdown.

FROM THE COACH: “We expect to have a big season from him,” Vinton head coach Tarius Davis said. “Now he is a junior, so we think that he has accepted that role. We expect him to play big for us in all phases of the game. He is one of our top guys. He has quality athleticism. He is a quiet kid that doesn’t say much but it goes back to his actions.”

Jordan Janice

Senior, Running back

5-6, 155 pounds

NOTES: Janice rushed for over 200 yards in his first two games last year and went on to rush for over 1,000 yards, score 12 touchdowns and average 6.4 yards per carry.

FROM THE COACH: “He was a first year starter last year and was 1,000 yard rusher,” Davis said. “We hope that he can duplicate that this year. 

“Hopefully he can have a steady year. His first two games he rushed for over 200-plus yards then he had some games late in the season where he didn’t perform quite as well. We are hoping this year that he will have a steady performance throughout the year and have a better season than last year.”

Hezakiah Holts

Junior, Running back/Safety

6-0, 182 pounds

NOTES: After a year away in Georgia, Holts returns to Vinton and will give the Lions a potent one-to-two punch in the backfield along with Janice. Holts played for the Lions in 2017 as a freshman and scored his first varsity touchdown Week 10 against Pickering. At Temple High School last year, Holts saw limited action but averaged 9.8 yards a carry and recorded 22 tackles with six tackles for loss and two sacks on defense where he will provide the Lions a big physical presence at strong safety.

FROM THE COACH: “He looks the part,” Davis said. “He is going to be special for us on both sides of the ball. 

“We feel like we have two starting running backs. They push each other every day. We are expecting a big season out of him from the running back spot as well as strong safety. We think he is going to bring some physicality to that strong safety spot that we have been missing in the past.”

Drew Heinen

Senior, Quarterback

5-10, 150 pounds

NOTES: Heinen stepped up to the challenge in his first season under center in 2018 and became the first Lion to throw for over 1,000 yards since Tanner Guidry (1,234) in 2014. Heinen played both ways last year, but will see his time on defense decrease this time around to focus more on guiding Vinton’s offense.

FROM THE COACH: “He had a solid season as a first year starter when we asked him to do a lot,” Davis said. “We are going to try to limit some of his defensive snaps so he can be more fresh on offense and we can have more offensive punch from the quarterback position.

“He has been a multi-sport guy and brings a unique leadership quality. He is a gammer and a coach’s son. He brings all the intangibles of a kid that has been a gym rat all his life.”

Adam Beard

Senior, Lineman

6-0, 220 pounds

NOTES: Beard earned 5-2A all-district honors while blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher (Jordan Janice) and 1,000-yard passer (Drew Heinen). Beard will play guard on the offensive line and end on the defensive side.

FROM THE COACH: “We expect Adam to anchor our defensive and offensive line,” Davis said. “He has had a good summer and went to a lot of summer camps. 

“I know a lot of the smaller schools have him on his radar. If he has a good season, he could find himself on a roster. He is our leader on and off the field. You would like to have three or four of them round. He has good strength and worked hard this summer. He has worked to get his 40-yard dash time down.”