The Oakcrest High School football team has a new coach for the fourth time in eight seasons.
Unlike past coaching changes, the Falcons are not completely rebuilding this time.
Former Mainland Regional offensive coordinator Chuck Smith takes over for Scott Parker, who left to become the vice principal of the new Cedar Creek High School.
There is a positive preseason buzz about the Falcons, who return numerous starters from last season's 5-5 team. Oakcrest is seeking its first winning season since it finished 7-3 in 1998.
"It's been a lot of work being a new head coach and getting used to all the other stuff you have to do," Smith said. "The kids have been extremely positive and hard-working. It's been easier than I thought on the field."
Smith is trying to bring Mainland Regional's winning attitude to Oakcrest.
"The hard thing is reshaping the mindset," he said. "I'm used to the mindset of, ‘We compete for championships.' It's been taking a while to catch on, but they're getting it."
Oakcrest will run the spread offense that Mainland used.
"We're very, very, very fast," Smith said.
One of the fast players is junior wide receiver Fabian Santiago, who was one of southern New Jersey's top track and field sprinters last spring.
The Falcons must develop some depth on the offensive and defensive lines, however. Dante Smith is one of the few veterans on the line.
One of the main reasons for Oakcrest's optimism is 5-foot-11, 200-pound, sophomore quarterback Quaashie Jetter, who transferred to Oakcrest after spending his freshman year at St. Augustine Prep.
"He has a strong arm," Smith said. "He has the football field intelligence. It's a whole different level of play when he's in there. But he's only a sophomore. We're going to have some learning lumps."
Despite its struggles, Oakcrest seems to always have some of the region's best linebackers, and this year is no exception.
Inside linebacker Billy Fursin and outside linebacker Ismail Showell spark the defense.
"Both have a nose for the football and can hit," Smith said. "There's no slow gear for them. They just fly to the football."
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 1
LAST APPEARANCE: 1985
PLAYOFF RECORD: 0-1
LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League National/South Jersey
COACH: Chuck Smith (first season)
2009 RECORD: 5-5
2010 PREDICTION: Spoiler. The Falcons could surprise with their speed and quarterback Quaashie Jetter.
GAME TO WATCH:
Oct. 1 vs. Mainland Regional.
Smith, Mainland’s former offensive coordinator, coaches against his old team.
Billy Fursin, Sr., RB/LB, 5-10, 195; Nick Perrotti, Sr., OL/DL, 6-4, 255; Zach Reichenbach, Sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 215; Ismail Showell, Sr., WR/LB, 5-10, 190; Dante Smith, Sr., OL/DL, 5-10, 245; Kevin Winstead, Sr., WR/DB, 5-8, 185; Mark Clements, Jr., SE/DB, 5-10, 175; Brandon Bell, So., RB/LB, 6-1, 190.
Joe Sprigg, Sr., RB/DB, 6-0, 195; Steve Adkisson, Jr., WR/OLB, 5-11, 185; Akmen Muhammed, Jr., SE/DB, 5-11, 170; Fabian Santiago, Jr., WR/KR, 5-9, 175; Quaashie Jetter, So., QB, 5-11, 200.