OBERLIN — Every high school team gets hit by graduation, but the Oberlin Phoenix got pummeled, plain and simple.
Seven Patriot Athletic Conference first-team honorees and team offensive player of the year Gib Harris are gone. And if that wasn't enough, head coach Dave McFarland resigned in May after three seasons in which he and the players rebuilt the program into a winner.
In their absence, a new head coach and an enthusiastic group of young players look to continue building on that foundation.
It's a challenge they are looking forward to.
"We're a young team but we are a determined team," said senior wide receiver Alfonso Allen, one of three returning starters. "We lost a lot of talent and leadership from last year's team. But we believe in ourselves and in our coaching staff.
Listen to coach Fred Howery talk about the season with WEOL's Jim Allen:
"We are going to go out and give 110 percent at every practice, every game and see what happens."
Now leading the team is Fred Howery, who comes to Oberlin after going 1-9 at East High in his first season as a head coach. When East closed as part of the Cleveland City Schools consolidation plan, Howery took over a job he applied for back when McFarland was hired.
"I wanted this job four years ago and am happy to finally have the opportunity now," Howery said. "I think McFarland did a great job bringing back the program. We lost a lot of people and experience to graduation but the guys have really worked hard this summer to continue what was started.
"The experience we lost is a concern but we are determined to not to let it be an excuse."
With a new coaching staff and a lack of returning starters, positions are still being determined. Although the front line will be undersized it will be anchored by returning starter senior Shane Ramsey, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 285. Ramsey will make his presence felt as a tackle on both sides of the ball.
"I'm looking forward to stepping out there for my senior season," said Ramsey, a three-year starter. "I want to help the younger players out as much as possible and also leave the program in better shape than it was when I started.
"We've had a good summer so far and we're looking to carry it over into the season."
Added junior linebacker Drew Randalman: "It's been a great summer for us. The transition over to the new coaching staff has gone well. The team is bonding and we're confident in each other. Every day we're improving and taking a step forward as a football team."
Continuing what McFarland started is not the only thing on Howery's list of things to accomplish. Preparing his players for life after and outside football is just as important to Howery as putting victories up on the scoreboard.
"We're dedicated to being a successful football program," Howery said "But I want these young men to have fun and be prepared for life in general. A lot of what happens in life can be crossed over to football. Disappointment, success, anger, happiness, earning respect and showing respect are all things that can happen on the football field.
"Teaching the guys how to transfer that over into everyday life is just as important as teaching them the X's and O's."
More high school football previews
- Elyria ready to chase playoffs
- EC has plenty to be excited about
- Midview has depth, confidence, too
- Rangers staying hungry
- Keystone counting on defense
- Wellington plans to throw more
- Avon Lake needs a runner
- Amherst expects to be even better this year
- Oberlin staying positive despite heavy graduation losses
- Lorain has high hopes for Titans
- Clippers feel new guys are prepared
- Columbia thinks this season could be a special one
- Brookside’s comfort level rising
- Are Sailors on the way back up?
- Olmsted Falls relying on excellent senior class
- Firelands’ focus on present, not future
- Avon looks to return to playoffs
- Pay-to-pay hasn’t derailed North Olmsted’s optimism
- Black River loaded with talent
- Lutheran West hoping to stay healthy this season
- Coach thinks Westlake will have big year
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.