Slater at Fayette FNF Week Five

Related Story

Date Opponent Location Outcome Score
8 / 22 Hallsville Home Loss 6 - 54
8 / 29 Harrisburg Home Win 19 - 12
9 / 5 Knox County Away Loss 7 - 36
9 / 12 Cole Camp Home Loss 7 - 52
9 / 19 Slater Home Win 55 - 12
9 / 26 Paris Away Loss 14 - 39
10 / 3 Marceline Home Loss 12 - 54
10 / 10 Salisbury Away Loss 0 - 61
10 / 17 Westran Away Loss 12 - 52
10 / 24 Santa Fe Away Win 44 - 6
10 / 31 Westran Away Loss 0 - 57

Inexperience and youth are two of the hardest words for any high school coach to swallow, but such was the case for the 2013 Fayette Falcons. Their program was carried on the shoulders of a large sophomore group of which their dismal 2-8 record duly reflects. All hope is not lost however, as youth eventually unfurls and opens itself to the great possibility of knowledge and experience -- two words Coach Tom Oakley would like to use more of this 2014 season. Recognizing his uphill battle last season, Coach Oakley is not naive to the ebb and flow of football programs -- the inevitability of experience diminishing in one fell swoop to a graduating class or even to injury. Yet, for the 2014 season, experience shines a bright light on the Falcons, of which Coach Oakley says "the tough competition from last year has set us up for a stronger group of men this season." Furthermore, he adds: "I believe that the Fayette Falcons are going to turn a corner this season. We have seen an increase in both athleticism and commitment in the off-season." Reassuring news for sure, for a program that faced such top teams as Salisbury, Marceline, and Westran all in consecutive weeks last year. No doubt those powerhouses will be back in top form this season, but perhaps the Fayette Falcons will have a little bit more to offer, as well.

Offensively, the Falcons return eight lettermen, which makes it the biggest strength of their program. Running out of both the spread and pistol formations, they hope to improve upon their 2013 statistics: 105 yards rushing and 55 yards passing per game average. Returning the majority of their offensive line will certainly alleviate some stress and perhaps answer the experience question. They are led by senior center Sam Zimmel (6-0, 185) and juniors Ryan Asbury (6-1, 205), Logan Russell (5-9, 235), and Ethan Chew (5-7, 200). Running the offense is senior Ethan Harper (6-0, 175) at QB, who started the last three games of the 2013 season -- an invaluable experience for his confidence this year. Furthermore, Coach Oakley is impressed with Harper's off-season work ethic: leading in the strength and conditioning program. Hoping to improve upon the passing game, the Falcons will look to WR Andrew Simmons (6-3, 180) who tallied 7 receptions for 144 yards last year, and WR Lane Ball (5-11, 165) who contributed with 4 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Running out of the backfield will be the RB trio of junior Jasper Lutz (5-7, 175), Ahmand McCuthcheon (5-7, 160), and Sam Moore (5-11, 175).

Although the Falcons lost two impressive LB's to graduation, they still have a core nucleus of defensive players both on the D-Line and in the backfield which will hopefully improve their defense this season. When asked the specific question of how many rushing yards the Falcons allowed in the 2013 season, Coach Oakley responded with: "more than we like" as his candid response. Place that on top of the falcons 42.7 points allowed per game, and there certainly seems to be immediacy for the defensive unit to improve this year. During the off-season, the Falcons have been working on "coverage" and "stopping the run" of which "we have a good group of young men committed to making those improvements this year." Those young men include: DB Ethan Harper, DE Colin Thies (6-2, 160), and SS Andrew Simmons -- all of whom received All-Conference Honorable Mentions for the 2013 season. LB Ethan Chew was also acknowledged for his impressive play last year, and was awarded a 2nd Team All-Conference nod, facilitated by his 95 tackles and 3 sacks. Rounding out the defensive returners are DT Sam Zimmel, DB Lane Ball, and DE Jasper Lutz for a combined 89 tackles. Also look for DB Chance Roberts (5-10, 155), DL Max Hildebrand (5-11, 245), and Marquis Williams (6-1, 250) to mix it up on the defensive side of the ball this year.

Coach Oakley's philosophy is simple: "be fundamentally sound and don't beat yourself." A fine thought, but also a hefty task for a team that has been lacking in the "desire" department over the past few seasons. But already, the off-season Falcons are making amends with their haunting past and Coach Oakley's staff is pleased by the results already: "We may be small in number, but I have seen a desire to improve. I want a hard-nosed football team that is willing to do the little things." And for the Falcons, that translates to a strong running game and a defense that is strong enough to shut down their opponents on the ground.

Pigskin Pick: 3-6