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Walker's Young Vikings Ready To Set Sail
By Marty Caridi

With only five starters returning from a team that went 4-6 overall and 1-6 in the Quad North, you'd think that Central Catholic head coach Art Walker Jr. would be worried--Not so. To hear Walker tell it, this season promises to be an exciting one for Viking fans. "We've got a lot of young kids that are going to be expected to play and help us out; our biggest class is our sophomores. We're really young across the board as far as playing experience goes, even a lot of our seniors don't have a lot of experience, so we're counting on some young kids to step up and help us out." Lack of experience has not dampened Central's lack of preparation though. "We don't have a lot of time," says Walker. "They were introduced to some new things at camp...three-a-day practices at summer camp are definitely new to anybody who hasn't done them before; but I think they've responded well. It's really going to be up to them as to how much they mature as the year goes on."

The maturation process for Walker's Vikings could be a tough one. After non-conference games against long-time rivals North Catholic and Trinity, conference play opens up September 17th, at home against a Shaler team that looks to be a bruiser on the ground. They then travel to New Castle for their first road game of the season. Homecoming falls on October 2nd against Butler, but it won't really be a home game. Central will host the Golden Tornadoes at West Mifflin. Central Catholic does not have an on-campus field, so for the past few years most of their home games have been at Duquesne University's Rooney Field, with a game or two being played at CMU. Originally, the October 2nd game was to be played at CMU, but a scheduling conflict forced an alternate plan. "Basically, we had to find another site," said Walker. "It was either that, or go play up at Butler. That was kind of a last resort, because you never want to give up a home game, even if you have to travel a little bit. It's just a different situation at Central, not having a home field, but we play at two very nice fields at CMU and Duquesne, and West Mifflin's a brand new facility, only a year old, so we're excited about going there also."

Walker's senior class is his smallest class of the team. The names that Viking fans will be hearing the most are Bill Cauley, a 6'0", 220lb. lineman, tight end/noseguard Pat Arndt, who towers at 6'4", 210 lbs., and Bobby Thompson at receiver/running back/defensive back. Thompson was a 1998 Quad North Honorable Mention as an all-purpose back, but at 5'8", 160 lbs., one may wonder about the punishment his body will take. But, Walker said that won't be a problem. "He doesn't have a lot of weight to him, but he's a very strong kid. He's in good condition." Thompson has been hampered a bit by a hamstring injury as camp has wound down, and the coaching staff has given him some time off. "We're bringing that along slowly," said Walker. "We're not that concerned about having Bobby for the pre-season, but we want to make sure we have him back completely healthy for our [conference] opener. He's durable. Bobby has definitely proven he's a tough kid, even though he's not a giant."

When you are the son of Art Walker Sr., a coaching legend in the WPIAL, you may expect to feel the pressure to succeed early on. Walker says that he doesn't feel any extra pressure being related to one of Western Pennsylvania's most recognized field generals. "We're just trying to do our best to create a program that's competitive with the teams in the Quad North, and trying to move things from Central up to the same kind of standards; they have a lot of tradition in a lot of those teams, and a lot of coaches have been there awhile. My dad was at Mt. Lebanon for 21 years as a head coach, and sure I would like to be even close to do some of the things that he did. But right now, with a very young team, that's a very far thing from my mind. But, I don't get any pressure from him or my family or anything like that." The son still looks to his dad for help. The elder Walker will be Central Catholic's defensive coordinator.

Patience will be a key for the Viking's coaching staff this season, and Walker knows that his squad will make their share of mistakes. "We just try to stay focused and realize that we do have a lot of young kids. When they do make mistakes, you just do your best to try to correct them and hope that they mature and come along. The youth kind of keeps you excited."

See…there's that "excitement" word again. Viking fans just sit back and enjoy this year. The best should be yet to come.