FITHIAN — Jeremy Dirksmeyer isn’t interested in putting limits on what his first Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac football team can accomplish.
“Expect more and challenge yourself,” is the mantra he has established. “We’ve preached about competing each and every day. That atmosphere provokes the best environment.”
He is trying to avoid pigeonholing his athletes into a particular position.
“One of my requirements is that all of my linemen are able to snap the ball,” Dirksmeyer said.
Center is one of the positions where there’s an abundance of candidates. Senior returnee Glendon Chesser has missed practice time with a strained medial collateral ligament. In his absence, sophomores Gavin Ashikyan and Jared Evans have tried to make an impression as has junior Tristan Cox.
Elsewhere on the line, junior Skyler Slade is a fixture at one tackle, but the other slot is up for grabs between Jeremy Watson, Kyle Elliott and Nick White.
Elliott is also a candidate at tight end.
The guards are both newcomers who played at other positions in 2011. Craig Ayers was a fullback a year ago and Andrew Curley was a tight end before suffering a season-ending broken leg.
“On the line, we’re pretty solid,” Dirksmeyer said. “We’re looking for Skyler to do some good things and Ayers has done a good job with the transition.”
Among the receiving corps, Alex Anderson, Ryan Bott and Conor Jarling are reasons Dirksmeyer believes the offense can be “fairly balanced.”
Bott is among the squad members learning a new position as the new coach implements a new system both on offense and defense. A former quarterback, his primary position will be as a running back.
Other potential ball carriers are Brandon Harding — a senior who is vying with sophomore left-hander Parker Lee at quarterback — Davin Miles and Zach Horatchski.
Miles led last year’s 2-7 team with three pass receptions.
One of the best aspects of his team, according to Dirksmeyer, is “we are pretty versatile and have quite a few kids who can play multiple positions.”
Defensively, the linebacking corps is solid. The unit will include Ayers, Curley along with others, such as Horatchski and sophomore Tate Guthrie. Ayers led last year’s team with 103 tackles, Slade was second with 86 stops and Curley was fourth with 38.
Elliott and Watson are ends. Slade and either Chesser or Ashikyan will fill the tackle slots.
In the secondary, Bott and Jarling are cornerbacks. Harding is the safety and Miles will also be a key contributor.
“It is a transitional period,” Dirksmeyer said, “but I am optimistic about our potential. We feel we can achieve a great deal, maybe more than what the perception is outside of Oakwood.”
The Comets have two athletes who also play soccer who are contending for the kicking chores: senior Synan Nicholson and junior Lane Bennett.
The Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac co-op team gained a transfer who would have already been playing. Last year, Miles attended Armstrong-Potomac. He is now a student at Oakwood. It will mean a different team for Miles in the spring. Oakwood and Armstrong-Potomac are not in a co-op for baseball.
Sean O’Brien is the only returning assistant coach from the staff that worked under Denhart in 2011. Other current assistants are former assistant John Neubaum (who has been away from the program four years), Craig Black, Brett Harrison, Jesse Johnson and Ryan McFarland.
They are working with a squad of 48 prospects, 18 of whom are freshmen. There are 11 seniors.
O/A-P opens its season on Friday in Broadlands against East Central. Dirksmeyer’s home debut will be on Aug. 31 against Arthur-Lovington and will be followed by a game at Schlarman and a non-conference home game against Decatur Lutheran in Week 4.