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Fall Sports Preview: Oak Harbor football
"Last year, a fleet of returning seniors dominated Oak Harbor's varsity football team.This year, attrition has pared the fleet down to a squadron of 17 seniors who will lead the Wildcats.But for head coach Dave Ward, the quality of his returning upperclassmen might more than compensate for quantity.We have a small, strong group of seniors who are unified and working well together, Ward said this week. There's a lot of enthusiasm on this team and attitude can make a difference in close games.In all, 17 seniors have returned to Wildcat football for the 2000 season.To augment their ranks, Ward is looking for his juniors to step up and into offensive and defensive slots.So far, the player roster includes Brent Lang calling the signals and directing the offense as quarterback; Billy Zabelka at fullback; running backs Tony Hall and Nick Garcia; and Tom McMickle, who will see action at quarterback and running back. Receivers include Jared Jenkins and Chad Reipma, as well as juniors Mark Vanoort, Ryan Ford and Chad Hembree.Returning senior Jess Barker will handle kicking duties along with Reipma.Up front, the offense will be anchored by six-foot, 300-pound Kevin at center, Fred Cheesboro and Nick Champlin on either side in the guard slots, and tackles Ramon Villaflor and Jeff Heiserman. Scott Gentry and Garrett Paine will pull duty at the tight end slots. Juniors John Goodwin and Sean Hogan will see time at offensive guard and tackle, Ward said. Hall and Tom McMickle will punts returns and Ward said Jenkins might be called upon to return kickoffs.On defense, Ward will call on McMickle in the middle, flanked by Heiserman, Gentry, Cheeseseboro, Villaflor and Hogan. The linebacker corps will include retuning second team all-league player Brent Lang along with Paine, Zabelka, Tom McMickle, Nick Garcia and Jerad Jenkins at safety.Retuning starters Brian Lang and Tony Hall will cover the corners on defense, and juniors Allan Connelly and Hembree will back up at the corner spots.Sophmores Grant Bull and Chad Asmus will also see time with the varsity defense, Ward said, because of their strong play so far in practice.The Wildcats will be tested early, according to Ward, with a non-league opener at Anacortes, followed by home games against Sehome and Edmonds-Woodway, then away again at Cascade. All teams have big players and successful football programs.We're gonna face big teams right off, Ward said.But the Wildcat's coach thinks his team's speed and aggressiveness could mitigate the size advantage of its bigger opponents.Plus, two weeks into fall practice, his seniors have let it be known they want to improve last year's 5-4 record, and they realize this is their last chance to do so.They're real hungry, Ward said. The seniors have this look in their eyes. "