OSCODA – When Whittemore-Prescott shifted from 11-man to 8-man last week, it nearly left Oscoda out in the cold for a game in the first week of the season. The Owls, who were originally scheduled to host W-P this week, altered course however, scheduling division eight powerhouse Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes Saturday for a kickoff at 1 p.m.
“To be honest, when we learned we weren’t going to have a week one game with Whittemore, the kid were down,” head coach Mark Whitley said. “I told the them to keep their heads up and that we would find a game and now we have and they’re all excited.”
While the Lakers missed the playoffs last year, it was just the third time the program missed out on the post-season since 1990. The Lakers are known for their playoff runs, was state runner-up in 2015 and last won a state title in 2002.
“We wanted a team to play that is going to be a challenge so we can see where we are,” Whitley said. “We feel we are going to challenge some teams this year too and it is always great to start with a good program.”
Whitley had already began his game-planning for Whittemore, so when the tides shifted to hosting Our Lady of the Lakes, it has put him in research mode.
“We just scheduled this (a few days ago) so it has been pretty tough and to be honest with you I think we will get ready for multiple offense and defenses,” he said. “We have five days to prepare and I think the kids are just ready to play and be able to do something as a team other than worrying about things. We will be OK and we will be prepared and ready to go Saturday afternoon.”
On this year’s squad will be Carson Harger, Kaden Schirmer, Chris Thompson, Cameron Fabyan, Ian Boboltz, Damon Burrows, Shane Brinn, Drew Hess, Brennon Mills, Gavin Lueck, Austin Wisenant, Owen Franklin, Zach Ouillette, Parker Boughner, Rick Gutierrez, Caleb Nagel, Jayce Foster, Jacob Wright, Julian Gawne, Anthony Ward, Tyler Sheffer, William Collier, Trevor Miller, Vinny Carefelly, Carson Gooch and Phillip Opperman.
Franklin, who is entering his senior season, has been the team’s do-it-all type player the past two years will make the switch to quarterback. He will lead a potent offense that averaged over 35 points a game last fall.
“He is going to throw the ball, he is going to run the ball and run the offense, he is a smart kid,” Whitley said. “We have a good core of kids coming back and a couple of transfers from Mio (Hess, Mills) that are really going to help the team. One of the kids that you will find exciting is Ouillette (a running back); he will probably be the fastest or second fastest kid on any field we will be on this year. Ward will get the ball on offense and I am excited to watch Nagel play fullback. He can run you over and knock you down in the hole and take it into the endzone. Harger has shown up to play for the first time this year but he has good hands, is intelligent and has improved every week.”
The Owls defense has been a force in recent years, including allowing a program record low point total last season, giving up just 8.3 points a game and shutting out four teams.
“I think we are going to miss some of those guys from last year but we are going to have some hitters over there,” Whitley said. “(Defensive coordinator) Tucker (Whitley) will have them ready, just like (offensive coordinator) Dean (Caldwell) will have them ready on that side of the ball.”
Oscoda went 8-2 last year and has made the playoffs four times in the last five seasons. The two-time defending North Star League champions are hoping to take things to the next level come playoff time however.
“It has been hard to set goals because of everything that has gone on, making us go in and out of football for the last couple months,” Whitley said. “We did get together though and we want to three-peat on a league title and we want to win the rivalry game against Tawas. We also said that we want to take it one step further. We are already in the playoffs but this time lets go win a district crown. I think we will be prepared and we will keep working hard through our six game season and be ready for the playoffs.”