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Prep Football Preview: Bulldogs should live up to their name
Aggressive defense will lead Oak Hills in 2012
OAK HILLS • It isn't much of a secret that the defense will be the backbone of the Oak Hills football team this year.
There isn’t much question that the unit will be good. The only question is how good can it be?
“They’re really physical, they’re really strong and they know what to do out there,” Oak Hills head coach Robert Kistner said. “It’s a good group.”
With eight starters back from a unit that allowed 13.1 points per game last season, the Bulldogs feature an experienced, aggressive defense that isn’t afraid to take the load on its shoulders.
It’s neither the biggest nor fastest defense around, but the unit thinks it can improve upon it’s strong performance from last season.
“We’re looking a little better than we did last year,” senior linebacker Casey Campbell said. “Our heads are right, and if we can just stick to our responsibilities we’ll do good.”
Oak Hills’ defensive strength begins up front with a line that Kistner said is his best position group on the team. Seniors Austin Beltrame and Brant Sweeney will lead the linemen, while an experienced linebacking corps will be led by Campbell, an all-league selection last year, and exciting junior Morris Fidis, who led the team with 74 tackles and three fumble recoveries a year ago.
With such strength up front, Kistner made no secret of how the Bulldogs will attempt to neutralize some potentially explosive offenses, including league opponents Serrano and Sultana.
“Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush,” Kistner said. “We know those teams are going to throw it. We’ve just got to play how we play.”
While a strong, aggressive defense is good starting point, there is still a big question mark as to who will produce touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Senior quarterback David Richardson returns for his third season as a starter and has three returning starters on the line to protect him, but has a whole new cast of playmakers.
Junior Brett Kokesh, a 5-foot-7 speedster, will get the bulk of the carries as the replacement for Marshaun Coprich, the Daily Press Football Offensive Athlete of the Year last season. How well Kokesh, who carried the ball only 18 times last season, performs will be one of the biggest determining factors of Oak Hills’ final record.
“I learned a lot from Marshaun, so I’m just trying to get as much experience as I can and use that in the game,” Kokesh said. “Seeing the hole and running straight through it, keep my feet moving — he taught me how to have good vision and pre-snap read. Those things will come in handy.”
The improvement of Richardson is also important to Oak Hills’ chances to compete for a league title. The senior is 15-7 as a starter and spent the offseason working with Norco quarterbacks coach Sam Rossi to clean up his footwork, quicken his release and improve his accuracy.
“I just worked on making things more smooth, cleaning things up,” Richardson said. “It was a little bit of everything. Just being a better all-around quarterback.”
The receiving corps will be led by senior Tyrone Gilmore, who hasn’t played football since his freshman year, along with Chase Jeffers and Phillip Hernandez. Gilmore, who runs the anchor leg on the track team’s 4x100-meter relay team, will look to approach Garrett Reece-Scott’s 27.8 yards per catch average from last year.
Regardless of whatever else happens, the Bulldogs’ defense will play like, well, Bulldogs. And if Richardson, Kokesh and the rest of the offense steps up, Oak Hills may just find itself in the thick of the Mojave River League title race.
Kyle Glaser can be reached at email@example.com or (760) 951-6274.