Oakdale Eagles

Morgan County may be small in the number of people residing there but on high school football Friday nights, it is the home of several of the most intense rivalries around. One of the Class A schools in the mix is the Oakdale Eagles. It may be a tiny community but there is an abundance of talent there this season and that has the fans and their first year head coach awfully excited.

Head Coach Willie Childers takes over the Eagles' nest after spending four years as an assistant. As the red and white take to the gridiron at Hollis Eble Field this fall, they should certainly be a disciplined bunch and improve on the paltry 2-8 overall record of a season ago.

"We as a staff are going to keep things simple and do them correctly…over and over again," said Coach Childers. "My job is to teach the players what we want them to do on the field and first and foremost, earn their respect. That alone will take you and your team very far." Sounds like an old fashioned approach that will be appreciated out in Oakdale.

As is the case at most class single A schools, most of the players must also play the old fashioned way…as in both ways. There are eight starters returning off of last year's squad. Four of those earned All Region honors and are the big reasons why there is hope for another trip to the playoffs after several seasons without a postseason appearance for the Eagles.

On offense Coach Childers welcomes back experience at all positions except quarterback. At Oakdale, running the football out of the power I formation and pounding the rock is the name of the game. The Eagles should be in good form as junior Michael Paul Gilbert returns looking to find enough running room to scamper for another 1000 yards this year. Gilbert was recognized as All Region and All East Tennessee for his sterling effort. Fellow running back and junior Cameron Headrick is also back looking to give the Eagles a potent running attack. Headrick was also named to the All Region team. Oakdale should be able to play ball control and find the end zone. Junior Michael Ruppe will get his chances to tote the mail when called upon. Youngsters Anthony and Gene Coffman will look for opportunities to get into the mix.

Coach Childers hopes his team will not be too one dimensional as the Eagles try to develop a passing game. "We must throw the ball more to be successful," said the coach. The young man charged with moving the chains with his arm is sophomore quarterback Brandon Helton. When he drops to throw Helton will look for fellow sophomore Andrew Monroe at wide receiver. The tight end should be Josh Stewart.

If the offensive line comes through, Oakdale will have a potent attack unit. Sophomore Justin Clark will be the center. One of the guards will be All Region honoree Rex Ruppe who is a senior. The other guard should be sophomore Chuck Bingham. Charles Cofer is yet another All Region returnee at tackle while junior Cody Chapman will be the other tackle.

The same cast of characters will line up in the Eagles' 4-4 stack defensive alignment. Experience along the defensive front will be the key to stopping the opposition. Cofer and Chapman at tackle, and the Ruppes…Rex and Kyle at end will form the first line of defense.

The linebackers should be the stalwart Gilbert, Anthony and Gene Coffman and Headrick. These guys are headhunters and fly to the football and arrive with harm in mind.

The defensive backs should feature Monroe at free safety. The cornerbacks should be sophomores Chris Young and Chris Powers. "We need to be better at covering people in the secondary," said Coach Childers.

With so many excellent players returning, 2003 could be a special type season for folks out in Oakdale. With four All Stars back bigger and better and some exciting young players in the mix, the Eagles will be a tough opponent on Friday nights. Morgan County features several key rivalries with four class A schools battling it out for bragging rights. This just might be the year Oakdale reigns over traditional power Coalfield with Sunbright and Wartburg looking to escape the sharpened Oakdale Eagles' talons as well.

TNPrepSports.com Prediction: 6-4

Playoff Contender: Yes

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