The Oakcrest High School football team will feature several new players this season.
They won’t all be unfamiliar faces. Many of the Falcons’ newcomers attended youth camps run by Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith.
“Now they’re in the program playing,” Smith said.
Oakcrest comes off back-to-back playoff appearances. The Falcons lost to Cherokee 33-6 in the 2010 South Jersey Group IV title game.
Oakcrest will try to continue that success by blending the newcomers with a talented but small core of veterans.
“Our seniors are great role models for our young kids,” Smith said. “You can see the looks our on our young guys’ faces as they watch the (seniors) go through the drills.”
Running back and linebacker Brandon Bell is one of the state’s top players. Bell, who who has verbally committed to Penn State on a scholarship, made 117 tackles, 22 of them for losses last season. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound Bell also rushed for 429 yards and five touchdowns.
Quaashie Jetter started at quarterback last season before Danny Smith took over midway through the season.
Jetter probably will start this year, according to coach Smith.
“To make our team better, we need Quaashie to step up at quarterback and Danny to be the quarterback of our defense,” Smith said. “We really need (Danny Smith) in the secondary.”
Danny Smith, who threw five touchdown passes last season, could see time at several offensive positions.
“He can play any position,” Chuck Smith said. “He’s so versatile. He’s like our wild card.”
Smith said the Falcons have to improve their offensive- and defensive-line play this season. The Falcons struggled upfront last year.
The Falcons will feature plenty of sophomores and even some freshmen.
Sophomore Reece Tunstall is one of the Falcons’ top linebackers. Chuch Smith said junior wide receiver LaDarrell Dixon is as athletic player at that position as he’s ever seen in the Cape-Atlantic League. Freshman Terrance Smith will see time at running back.
Chuck Smith knows that Oakcrest’s success this season will depend a great deal on how quickly the young players mature.
“I’m expecting to take some learning lumps,” Smith said. “But I think we have such a good core of young kids with such great senior leadership that I’m hoping our learning curve doesn’t take that long.”
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