OAKWOOD — An off-the-field tradition is still intact within the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac football program. Next up for the Comets is to revive an on-the-field tradition.
The O/A-P pattern for selecting captains continued on Saturday. The long-term goal is to start a postseason run similar to the one that began in 1986 and lasted four successive seasons.
Captains are chosen annually at O/A-P after the team’s seventh preseason practice and every varsity member gets a vote. The coaches make certain it doesn’t turn into a popularity contest but is a reflection of which individuals have emerged as the best leaders.
“They vote verbally (and individually) in front of the coaches and they tell us why,” head coach Gary Denhart said. “We never set a number (of captains). Sometimes we’ve had two. One year we had five.”
This year, the results favored three seniors, Jacob McGlaughlin, Arlen Kerst and Trace McClintock.
Denhart likes the idea that players earn their votes based on how they work during the offseason.
“We tell them in November, ‘You have nine months to be a leader.’ There’s more than leading calesthentics.”
The Comets return two starters on offense (one of whom is at a different position) and four on defense. Those numbers are deceiving, according to Denhart.
“We have a lot of kids who didn’t start, but played a lot,” Denhart said. “We subbed more on defense than offense. Defense will be a strength.”
The current juniors and sophomores on varsity figured prominently in last year’s undefeated (7-0) junior varsity schedule.
“The juniors are showing a lot of enthusiasm and overall, I see a lot of confidence,” Kerst said. “We’re a solid team.”
McGlaughlin, a tackle, is the lone returning offensive regular in the same position as in 2008. Mikal Harden, the center last year, has been shifted to guard with sophomore Cameron Lee taking over at center.
Other linemen of prominence could be James Haaksma (tackle) and Brad Miller (guard) with Andy Kirkpatrick (guard), Cody Deck (tackle) and Cole Lewis (guard or center) poised to make contributions.
John Garrett and Ryan Robertson will solidify the tight end position.
McClintock is at quarterback and Kerst is the fullback. Clay Smith and Ryan Strange are the top candidates at the I-back slot and Joseph Garrett is a halfback.
“We’re talented in the backfield,” Denhart said. “This backfield was together on the JV.
“Receivers-wise, we’ve got three or four guys we can go to. You can’t throw with just one receiver.”
Among the top pass-catching prospects are Buckley, Drew Simpson and Jordan Smith.
McClintock is entering his third year as the team’s top cornerback. Though he is inexperienced on offense, Denhart considers him as one of the team’s veterans.
“He’s been under the gun for two years on defense,” Denhart said. “Pressure-wise, nothing will shake him.”
McClintock and Clay Smith (also a cornerback) are returning defensive regulars along with Kerst (linebacker) and John Garrett (linebacker).
Strange and Garrett’s twin brother, Joseph, are also linebackers. Others who will help in the secondary are Buckley, Dylan Fletcher and Zach Grubb.
Up front, McGlaughlin will be an anchor along with Robertson (who shifts from linebacker). Among the others looking to make an impact on the line are Miller, Jimmy Rutledge and Derek Wilder.
Clay Smith likes the blend of veterans and newcomers.
“The kids up from the JV have a lot to offer the varsity,” Clay Smith said.
O/A-P has 72 squad members from grades 9-12. There are 29 members of the freshmen class, 17 from Oakwood and 12 from A-P.
Joining Denhart on the coaching staff are Brad Benner, Aaron Sester, Jeff Willaman and Nic Wright. The team opens the '09 season on Aug. 28 at home against Arthur-Lovington.