By Kevin Schrock
The Oiler football team is coming off one of their best seasons ever, and believe it or not, they think they are even more talented this year. With key players returning at almost every position, Findlay thinks they have the team this year to take the championship.
A year ago, Oiler running back Daiquone Ford made his mark, not only in the conference, but in the nation. After his breakout year, Ford has earned pre-season first team all-American honors for this year, his junior year.
Although Ford may be the main option on offense he definitely won’t be the only one.
“We want to stay balanced,” says coach Keys, “a lot of opponents coming into this year will probably put the target on his back, but I think we have enough weapons on offense that we can balance things out.”
One of those weapons will be senior quarterback Verlon Reed. Last year Reed was part of a two quarterback offense that Findlay ran along with Devontae Payne, but after losing Payne to graduation, the plan is to rely on Reed at the head of the offense.
“Verlon (Reed) is definitely the guy that is going to lead this team,” said coach Keys. He did add, though, there are other options at the position as well.
“The interesting thing is that we have three senior quarterbacks we can go to. We have Verlon Reed, Mitch Fayne and Jesse Sloan, and they all give you something different. We have plenty of experience at the quarterback spot.”
The main target for the quarterbacks will be senior wide receiver Lloyd Henry. Henry returns after being named first team all-conference, a year ago when he led the team with 71 catches for 951 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Lloyd (Henry) will be our main target but we’ve done a nice job of developing some depth and some young talent around him,” said Keys. “Luke Hampton has provided a deep threat for us in the past, Tim Szabo had a great spring, as did Dylan Blunk.”
The Oilers main liability from a year ago was their defense.
“I thought we were solid at times, but we lacked consistency. The big thing for the defense will just be to improve that consistency.”
The exciting part about the defense is that they have experience there, as well. They will return with senior safety Harold Jones-Quartey, who earned preseason third team all-American honors, senior defensive back Nate Morris, senior defensive back Ferraris Golden and a senior on the defensive line, Kevin Brewton.
“The defense was pretty much in a disarray when we got here four years ago, so we had to build that up,” said Keys, “I think we’re finally ready to play the way I think we should week in and week out.”
The key for Findlay this year is the amount of upperclassmen and the amount of experience they have. Coach Keys knows that is what it takes to get to a conference championship.
“It’s huge, we have more seniors this year then we have in the past, and almost all of them are either starting or right there in the two-deep.”
For the Oilers the expectations are as high as ever and it should be an exciting year. They open up their season Saturday, Sept. 6at Donnell Stadium against Hillsdale College at 7 p.m.