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Foreword to Football: Oak Grove

Sorry to burst any bubbles but Fall is just days away. Just think about it, the beautiful game - camps for Fall's game have gotten started on all levels of the sport. So we are still plenty of days away as far as the calendar goes but Football signals Fall. Don't get me wrong, I'm like many of you and am fully intent on taking advantage of the great weather that we get during the non-school months but the fact remains, Fall is coming. With it will come the array of colored leaves on the trees and in the grass, the cooler temperatures and FOOTBALL. For some that last one can't come fast enough, so with that in mind I present to you this year's Forewords to Football.

A special thank you to coach Melvin Whitney for taking the time to answer my questions!

Before looking forward I would like to take a look back at your 2017 season. The top story for your team may be the loss of Ben Hoggarth. It's not every year that a player from your level of play gets a chance to compete at the D1 Football level but he proved that he's worthy of the shot. So the first question I have for you is which players do you hope or expect to pick up some of the offensive responsibility?

"We'll try to utilize our overall team speed to make up for the missing power back that we had with Ben on the team. Quarterback Kaleb Card will be back under center with a little more experience than he had in starting in his junior year. Kaleb, along with Joseph Akiri, Wyatt Pierce, Ryan Donabauer, Isaac Olson, Nati Teshager & Landen Kjos will be key in making the team go this year. We will utilize all of those players strengths to help fuel the offense."

How do you think your offense will change with regard to your quarterback play without the security blanket of such a talented back?

"When you lose a player the caliber of Ben Hogarth, you are usually not a situation in which one person can take the responsibility of replacing him. We have a number of seniors and a couple of juniors that will jump into the mix and will all do their part in replacing the productivity that we received from Ben."

"That all starts with our line, which returns 4 of 5 starters, who will be going into their 3rd year in the system. Seniors, Ian Pytlik, Christian DeJong, Tyrell Rodriguez and Junior Dylan Sunderland will anchor the line and will be heart of what we are doing offensively this coming season."

From the list of players that you included as Cards compliments (Akiri, Pierce, Donabauer, Olson, Teshager & Kjos) are there guys that you consider to be firmly in one position or another or do they possess the traits to be interchangeable on the field and within the three skill positions?

"Not really. We'll be moving them around quite a bit."

"We're changing up how we do things this year, and they will be all over the place with how I'd want to run the offense. A RB could be a WR, and vice-versa."

It must be nice to have a returning starter at quarterback. Is there one area that Card excels at (running or throwing) or is he a dual threat?

"He's more of a passer than a runner. He does a good job of making the adjustments at the line that we need. He's being pushed by a few players this offseason, so that should only make him and the others better."

What would you like to see from a returning starter at the position as a senior?

"Just a better understanding of what we are trying to do when certain plays are called. Just to be in sync with the reason behind what we are trying to accomplish."

Is there anyone else that you think may be a breakout player for you this Fall?

"If I had to name some others, on the defensive side of the ball, I expect Ian Pytlik, Christian Dejong and Tyrell Rodriguez to have great seasons. The line often goes unnoticed and under appreciated, but they will be a major part of anything that gets done for us, offensively, as well as, defensively."

Your season ended sooner than I expected but going forward what do you hope to accomplish this season?

"When you look at the landscape of our region, we've had the last 2 state champions come from region 1, so when you say who is a team that you have to beat, you have to start with the region and state champions in the Hillsboro Borros. Anytime you're the champion of any sport, you know you'll have a target on your back, but they've built a great program there, so I'm sure they will be ready for all comers."

A championship is the goal for all but is there a particular team you hope to beat or even just within the play of your team, are there goals that you have for your players?

"We have a few goals as a team, that we like to keep in house. Nothing too crazy, but the main point is to try and control what we can control. We want to continue to build on the successes that we've had over the last year, and keep building a good program."

"We'll have to make sure that we aren't satisfied with just making the playoffs last year, but rather after getting a taste of that, turn that into fuel of wanting to go further and get more."

Speaking of Hillsboro, with their recent success and close proximity have the Borros developed into a rival for your team or is there another school from region 1 that would more accurately be called a rival?

"I wouldn't say Hillsboro, because they won't be down in Class A after this year. From the looks of things, they will be heading back up to Class 2A. They are definitely the team to beat coming back this season, as the reigning State & Region Champions."

"A natural rival for us would be Northern Cass. It's been that way in other sports, and we've seen it carry over into football. They're also the closest to us as well, so I would say they are a natural rival. School size matches up as well. Also, any of the other traditional Class 1A, region 1 schools, Milnor,-NS, & EEK, could all be considered rivals. For a long time, we've just been on the short end of those matchups, and we're hoping to change that over the coming years."

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