OBERLIN — More is always better.
OK, maybe not in golf, but in football more size, more speed and more yards usually leads to more points — and more wins. Oberlin now has more players, which it hopes equates to more competition in practice, more rest and more energy throughout the game.
“We have competition now, it’s not just throwing somebody in there because we don’t have the numbers,” coach Fred Howery said. “We have the numbers, now we’re starting to get competition and ultimately that will help us get better.”
The Phoenix are looking to take their newfound numbers and improve on a roller coaster 2012 season. Oberlin started off 5-0, then were handed some humble pie at the hands of Stripes Division contenders Columbia and Clearview — both playoff teams. Injuries mounted and the Phoenix finished 6-4.
“We were in against Columbia till the very end and tied against Clearview at halftime,” Howery said. “But teams figured out they could power us in the second half. If we could have pulled things out against Columbia, things may have been different.
“I think the kids who watched last year learned a lot by seeing the things that happened in the second season.”
Losses to Fairview and Lutheran West came without quarterback Jason Moore. Not having Moore will be a reoccurring problem in 2013 because Oberlin’s dynamic playmaker is attending the University of Findlay. Howery is confident that between senior Brenden Medina and junior Marvin Jackson Oberlin will be in good hands.
Regardless of who wins the job, both will be featured in the offense and Jackson will start for a third-straight season at safety. Medina is also battling for one of the cornerback positions.
“It’s a friendly battle,” Jackson said. “We don’t want to start any bad blood because of it. The whole battle is just whatever is best for the team, really. If it is Brenden Medina who starts, so be it, I’m still gonna put my heart on the line for the team.”
The offense will lean heavily on a young, but experienced, offensive line that only lost one starter from last year. Juniors Nick Pfeifer and Kennith Twitty III both started the last two seasons and sophomore Malik Aguiniga returns at center.
“You can’t pass up our two big boys,” Howery said of Pfeifer and Twitty. “Both of them are 315 to 320.”
Oberlin also loses dynamic running back Kalif Townsel, who ran for 1,244 yards and 12 touchdowns. But Howery said the Phoenix have a number of kids ready to assume his role. Starting with senior Kiylan Bugg, who Howery said runs a 4.4 40-yard dash. Junior Tyler Thomas will also be splitting time at fullback and running back in addition to starting at linebacker for a third year. Sophomore Kobe Fields has improved in the offseason and will look to snag some carries.
“The competition brings a whole level of ferocity up,” Thomas said. “You’ve got the younger classmen who want that varsity time. They’re going to work the upperclassmen harder to insure they earn their spot. Nobody is giving up, it’s all about who wants it more.”
There will be plenty of competition in the secondary headlined by Jackson at safety. Bugg and fellow sophomore Sam Wilson are competing for the other safety position.
Fields, Medina, senior Jaelin Moore and a surprise addition — senior Alaijah Gonzalez — are battling for playing time at corner. Gonzalez moved to Oberlin from Chicago a few years ago, but never went out for football until now. Howery is impressed with his ability to pick up the position quickly.
Oberlin didn’t do itself any favors with the schedule. Despite four of its first five opponents being identical — the Phoneix will play all four of them on the road. Their first home game is Sept. 20 against Buckeye — one of just three for the year.
“To me I don’t know if home and away really means a whole lot,” Howery said. “The kids know the teams we go to and just as many people in those places. The crowds are similar or the same. I think it actually helps us sometimes to play away from home.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: Patriot Athletic Conference, Stripes Division
2012 RECORD: 6-4, 3-4
COACH: Fred Howery (4th year), 8-22
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 11
RETURNING STARTERS: 7
FAST FACT: When Howery took over in 2010, Oberlin fielded 19 kids. The Phoenix now list 40 on their unofficial roster.
Aug. 31 at Lutheran East (1)
Sept. 6 at Brookside
Sept. 13 at Richmond Heights
Sept. 20 Buckeye*
Sept. 27 at Firelands*
Oct. 4 Lutheran West*
Oct. 11 at Columbia*
Oct. 18 at Clearview*
Oct. 25 Fairview*
Nov. 1 at Brooklyn*