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If the announcement of the WesCo North Division all-conference football team is any indication, the Oak Harbor Wildcats have a lot to look forward to next season.
Eleven Cats, including five juniors or sophomores, earned all-conference honors in 2001. The Wildcats posted a 5-4 record this year, a three game improvement from a year ago. Though they lose some key players to graduation, they will also return a solid corps of players who saw plenty of action and will put it to good use in 2002.
One of those payers is Chad Asmus. Asmus, a junior, was named a first-team defensive lineman and the second-team kicker on the WesCo All-Conference team. Asmus was quite a handful for opposing team to block on the line and also helped that Cats with his kicking abilities. Asmus, who plays soccer in the spring, was 25-of-27 in extra points and also had a strong enough leg to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs.
Chad was a real force for us, said Oak Harbor head football coach Dave Ward. He got the attention of everyone we played and he caused a lot of problems for opposing offenses. Teams really had to prepare for him because he jump-started our attacking defense and he was real consistant as a kicker too.
Senior John Goodwin was also named to the first-team defense. Goodwin, a defensive end, was the Wildcats team captain and one of the squads better pass rushers. Ward praised his intensity and leadership.
His pass rush really got him noticed by the rest of the league, Ward said. He got a lot of our sacks.
Despite not having a first-team offensive selection, the Wildcats loaded up on second-team picks, with five players named to the squad.
Sean Hogan and Chris Whiteman, the Cats senior bookend tackles, were both selected as offensive linemen on the second-team offense.
Senior Mark VanOort was named at tight end. Ward believed that his big play abilty and pass receiving skills were what caught they eye of opposing coaches.
Mark was a big play receiver at tight end, said Ward. He got better during the season at blocking and did pretty good for not being that big of a guy. I think it was his receptions that got him the recognition.
Junior Grant Bull earned honors at wide receiver despite missing more than four games due to injury. Bulls speed and receiving abilty made him a dangerous threat whenever he got his hands on the ball.
Senior running back Tom McMickle also made the second-team offense. McMickle led the Wildcats in rushing, receptions and scoring in 2001. According to Ward, McMickles selection showed that he stood out in a crowded field.
Tom really carried the offense as much as anyone, he said. He led the team in a variety of ways. Usually in the WesCo a lot of the better athletes play at running back and its nice to see that he rates right up there with some quality backs.
Oak Harbor also had several members of the second-team defense. They included junior defensive lineman Chris Walker, described by Ward as one of the most improved Wildcats this season, and senior linebacker James Wiley, one of the teams leading tacklers.
Two Cats were named to the second-team secondary, junior strong safety Cody Parker and sophomore cornerback Adam Diaz. Both will be back next year and Ward believes that the pair can only get better.
Cody was one of our best hitters and tacklers, he improved and gained a lot of confidence this season, said Ward. Adam was our best cover corner, he could match up with a lot of the wideouts in the league. He also returned some kicks and has some offensive skills as well. This was a great honor for a sophomore.
Next season the Cats will return six starters on defense and two more players who saw significant time. The squad also returns five starters on offense, mostly at the skill positions. The team loses four of five starters on the offensive line, but Ward believes there are some underclassmen who can step up, but that its important for them to get a jump on it this offseason.
There is optimism heading into the offseason, Ward said. We need to get these guys into the weight room to develop strength and speed. We had a lot of underclassmen play at times and that should help us next season.
Besides the All-Conference selections, the Wildcats also voted on several team awards. Wiley was named the squads most inspirational player, while junior quarterback Lenny Serfling took offensive MVP honors and Asmus was named defensive MVP.
I was really pleased with the progress that this team made, said Ward. Quite a few juniors played and helped us stay in every game. It was a fun group to coach, they were eager and they played hard. It was rewarding in all the team aspects.