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High school football 2011: Oberlin Phoenix looking to rise


OBERLIN — It’s often said that it is always darkest before the dawn. For Oberlin coach Fred Howery it could not get much darker then in 2010. Taking over a team with just three seniors, the Phoenix limped to an 0-10 record in Howery’s first year at the helm.

However, with a cadre of veteran assistant coaches coming on board for 2011 and 16 returning starters it looks like the dawn of a new era for Oberlin football.

“This team has a different attitude this year,” senior lineman Brady Jones said. “Now we have players who have varsity experience. Last year made me work even harder and to push my teammates to work harder and get in the weight room because I know this is my senior year.”

Howery said one of the biggest changes on this year’s team is the infusion of a pair of former head coaches on the Oberlin coaching staff - Bill Roniger and Randy Kelly.

“I wanted to bring in assistants who are interested in building the program for the long term,” Howery said. “Now I don’t have to make all the decisions by myself. These guys know what needs to be done.”

As Howrey spoke of his coaching staff, he looked down from his office into the gymnasium where 32 football players were busy studying film of their first scrimmage.

Now that he has his coaching staff in place the next thing Howrey wants to see is more players for them to coach.

“When I came here I wanted to build the program back from square one,” Howery said. “We need to get into the middle school and down to the youth level and bring back the tradition of success in Oberlin football.”

Rebuilding the program from the ground up is important to the current crop of Oberlin players as well. So much so that Jones, one of the team captains, leads a group of seniors who volunteer to help with the middle school team after finishing their own two-a-day practices.

“Even though I am a senior it is really important to me to build the program and build a tradition at Oberlin,” Jones said. “The more kids that reach the high school already knowing the system means a strong future for the program.”

The 2011 edition of the Phoenix will have a solid linebacker unit led by Jones, Trevon Tucker and Division V All-Ohio third-teamer Drew Randleman. Jones described the corps of linebackers as “big, beefy and gutsy.”

Randleman, a senior, led the Oberlin defense last season with 154 tackles. Those lofty numbers have attracted the attention of scouts from NCAA Division II football programs, such as Ashland University.

“I have faith in our team,” Randleman said. “We’ve all been in the weight room. We are bigger and stronger then we were a year ago. There is just one goal going into this season — that is to put some wins on our record.”

Senior quarterback Melvin Medina will guide the Phoenix offense. In limited action during his junior year, Medina threw for over 700 yards. Now that he has experience in the system, this could be a breakout year.

“Look for Melvin to do big things this year,” Howery said. “He’s getting better every day. He has taken charge of the offense and now he can control the tempo of the game on the field.”

Oberlin will also look to expand the role of the 6-foot-4, 225 pound Tucker out of the tight end spot.

The Phoenix could get off to a quick start with winnable non-league road games at Lutheran East and Richmond Heights before opening the Patriot Athletic Conference schedule at Brookside. The second half of the schedule will see Oberlin playing Columbia, Clearview and Lutheran West in a four-week stretch, and will be a better test of how far the team has progressed.

Howery is hoping a quick start can change the negative perception of the team.

“I hope we can get people to take notice of what is going on with this program,” he said. “We can’t do this without the support of the community. There are a lot of people who have stepped up and put a lot of time, money and sweat into this team. We want them to see a different team this year.”

Read more high school football previews:

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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