Getting back to .500 was a step in the right direction for Oberlin High School football, but head coach Mike Akers and his Phoenix are ready to leave a more emphatic stamp on what’s likely the final year of the Patriot Athletic Conference.
Oberlin won its final four games last season after starting 1-5. Akers, entering his second year at Oberlin and 30th of his coaching career, feels there is plenty of momentum carrying his players into this fall.
“Last year we were just trying to look like a varsity football team and I think we did pretty well,” Akers said. “We only had one loss in the conference, to Clearview, so we were playing for a possible PAC championship through week 10. We got on a real roll with that winning streak and there weren’t any small schools around here we felt afraid to play.”
The team will have to make do without do-it-all quarterback Devan Yarber, whose 1,542 rushing yards ranked third in Lorain County last season.
The departed graduate notched 14 touchdowns on the ground and passed for 622 yards along with seven more scores through the air.
Junior Azare Hariston is expected to take over Yarber’s duties at quarterback while a pair of seniors, Devin Randleman and junior Ravon Eisom, will pick up the slack out of the backfield.
“This is my first year playing quarterback,” Hariston said after completing a string of passes during practice. “I wanted to be the leader of a team and I just knew I could be good. The coaches know I have the physical ability and that I’m able to know where everyone is on the field.”
Senior receiver Aaron Arnold averaged nearly 30 yards per catch last season. He hopes to provide his new quarterback with a core of stable targets along with Sam Thompson, Aaron Hopkins, and Jaxson Baker
”Our coaching staff doesn’t focus a whole lot on sprints and punishing us,” said Baker. “It’s about showing us the actual plays and getting us where we need to be. It’s up to us to be disciplined and control how our season goes. Our punishment for not working hard is going 3-7 or 2-8. I don’t want to go 5-5 again, either. I want to go to the playoffs my senior year.”
Lineman Matt Rasmussen was another main contributor Oberlin lost to graduation, but he’s found a new role on the team as a coach.
“Matt’s here every day,” Akers said. “He comes up here and helps us out before he goes to college. We have a lot of new kids coming out this year and having him passing down some knowledge has been so, so helpful.”
Riley Horning and Alex Rucker are being counted on to anchor the Phoenix up front in Rasmussen’s absence.
A shotgun triple-option will make up most of Oberlin’s offensive attack. Defensively, the team will try to take away the run and short throws with eight-man fronts, the coach said.
“We’re going to keep five men on the line of scrimmage and run sort of a 5-3,” Akers said. “That’s not going to switch up that much.”
Oberlin will open its season at home Aug. 24 against Vermilion.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.