RISE UP: Oakmont football looks to get back on track in 2015By: Jorden P. Hales & Ryan Burns - Of The Press Tribune
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jake Knapp - QB
Cameron Javier - RB
Anthony Wiley - WR
Connor Gagain - TE
Bobby Bennet - OLB
Sept. 4 - Oakmont at Foothill - 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 - Oakmont at Woodcreek -7:30 p.m.
Sept. 18 - Casa Roble at Oakmont - 7:15 p.m.
Sept. 25 - Cosumnes Oaks at Oakmont* - 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 2 - Oakmont at Antelope* - 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 9 - Bella Vista at Oakmont* - 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 16 - Whitney at Oakmont* - 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 23 - Oakmont at Ponderosa* - 7:15 p.m.
Oct. 30 - Oakmont at Del Campo* - 7:15 p.m.
Nov. 6 - Roseville at Oakmont* - 7:30 p.m.
*denotes Capital Valley Conference game
“Disappointing” was the first word out of Oakmont football head coach Tim Moore’s mouth as he left the Vikings sideline for the last time in 2014.
The phrase was uttered after a humbling defeat, which saw the Vikings surrender 21 points to cross-town rival Roseville in the first three minutes of action.
Numerous injuries, a young roster and a drug investigation – which resulted in the suspension of 14 players – plagued the team’s 1-9 season in their first year in the Capital Valley Conference.
“The 2013 season was an outstanding season for us all around. Academically, our community service, play on the field,” Moore reflected, explaining his expectations one year ago. “We were in a good spot, we were climbing, raising things up and then we have a little bit of a drop last year. All our focus this off season was how do we get ourselves back to where we were and above.”
As the 2015 season quickly approaches, Oakmont looks to rebuild as the team seeks its first winning season since 2005.
The Vikings are also hopeful that some offseason changes will help revamp the defense, which had a hard time adjusting powerful league foes Antelope and Consumnes Oaks.
“We’ve got a new defensive staff, so we’re working through new schemes and that takes time but, all in all, we’re happy with the progress we’ve made this summer,” said assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Phil Holmes.
Holmes, who also serves as the team’s quarterbacks coach, has placed the keys of the offense into the hands of junior quarterback Jake Knapp, who came into the fold as an underclassmen a year ago.
“Last year got me to ‘game speed,’” the 6-foot-1, right-handed quarterback said, referring to the difference between varsity and junior varsity play. “Even the kids who didn’t start last year as sophomores on the varsity team, our bond is very strong… I just hope everyone stays healthy.”
Knapp started the first three games of the 2014, while first stringer Josh Daniels was out due to ineligibility.
Daniels has since transferred to Whitney High School, leaving the starting spot solely for Knapp, who is one of several juniors returning with varsity experience.
“We need to play as hard as we can one hundred percent of the time to make sure that we can compete against everyone,” Knapp admitted.
Knapp showcased some of his ability this summer during the team’s 7-on-7 passing camp at Del Oro High School. While the young passer took his fair share of timed-out sacks, he consistently found the open receiver and put the ball within reach of his long-armed pass-catchers.
One of his favorite targets was his big tight end, Connor Gagain, who caught nearly every pass thrown his way. Knapp also frequently located his top wideout Anthony Wiley, who made the most of his catches. The speedy receiver scampered 35 yards against Granite Bay in a scrimmage after a shallow catch on a slant pattern.
“Our offense is very versatile and can do more than one thing which most teams can’t,” Wiley said. “I think we’re a more pass-oriented team, but we’ll be good enough to mix it up when the season starts.”
Earlier in camp, Knapp and Wiley showcased their chemistry on a twenty-yard pass and catch in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown as Wiley made a leaping adjustment for the ball and got both feet in bounds before stepping out.
But Wiley, who transferred from Bella Vista High School, is uncertain as to whether he will be allowed to play a full season, per CIF rules.
“We want to have more of a chemistry than last year so we can all work efficiently, score a lot of touchdowns, and hopefully do a lot better than last year,” said senior Cameron Javier, who has the starting running back spot locked down.
As tough as the 2014 season was to swallow, the players have responded admirably.
“Everyone was doing the wrong things,” Javier explained. “The players weren’t being responsible during the season, and they got caught up without thinking about what they were doing. They didn’t think about their actions. I hope that can be a learning lesson for this year.”
Last year was also taxing for several members of Oakmont’s coaching staff as three coaches stepped down at the end of the season.
Sam Stahlheber was hired to fill the vacant defensive coordinator position in June, after leaving his position with a charter school football program in Redding, Calif.
“The defense has done a lot of adapting to the new staff,” Holmes said. “There’s some new terminology and stuff like that that they still have to get accustomed to.”
Stahlheber and his players have faced unusual challenges, as Gov. Jerry Brown during the month of July signed into law Assembly Bill 2127, legislation restricting the number of “full-contact” practices allowed by the CIF — a response to increased concussion awareness in recent years.
“We can’t have as much contact as we would like as coaches,” Stahlheber said. “But it’s good safety for the kids…it’s made it a little tough as far as putting in a new defense, not having the time that we need, but we’re working through it.”
Stahlheber hopes his defense will be ready come August 27, when the Vikings face off against Laguna Creek in the home-opener.