BY DAN STICKRADT
AUBURN HILLS — When an infant football program gets its start, the reality of winning state championships, and in many cases just gaining wins, is far from reality. It sometimes makes several years to till the soil and plant the seeds.
Rarely does a new team come out of the gates and make the postseason in its first few years.
At Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, the original working of the field started in 2008 when the Lancers began their football journey. Now, little by little, the fruits of labor are beginning to bloom.
“This is only my second year here and I have seen us come a long ways,” said Oakland Christian coach Bill Schaeffer, who has coached prep football in Michigan since the early 1970s. “You look at the grades and some of the experience levels of our players and I n some ways we are like a junior varsity team. In other ways, I think this team is going to have a breakout year really soon. Whether that’s this year or next year, I think it’s going to happen.”
Oakland Christian debut season in 2008 finished with a 2-6 record. In its first four years, the Lancers have won a combined seven games and one of those came last season by forfeit. Oakland Christian has not won more than two games in a season at this point of its short-lived history
All indicators point to the Lancers as a team to watch. Most of the team is back, there are some key additions to the roster and three players have impressed college scouts at some team and individual camps his summer.
“We do have some good kids and our numbers are better than they were last year,” pointed out Schaeffer. “Last year we started with 14 players and there was a game that we only dressed 11 guys because of injuries. This year we could have around 22 guys and maybe pick up a couple of more when school starts. We have a junior high team know which helps. Kids are learning the game before high school. That’s a huge part of building a successful program. You have to have junior high and elementary school kids playing some type of football. Successful programs have kids starting early. It’s that way with any sport.
“I think one of the battles we have at Oakland Christian is that kids don’t come here to play football,” he continued. “They come here to play soccer or play basketball. We’re trying to convince kids at the school to play more than one sport. We’re really trying to get some of those basketball players to come out for football.”
Like most small schools, the Lancers will have players go both ways. Several players are back as starters on both sides of the football.
Senior Josh Rupright (6-0, 185) is an experienced two-way lineman who will be one of the anchors. Junior Bobby Roose (6-1, 285) is also back in the trenches.
Sophomore Javarian Smith (5-10, 175) was moved to the starting quarterback role last season and has improved his game by drastic measures. His main target is sophomore Stephen Nichols (6-5, 230), who has great length to haul in catches. Nichols can also play QB and will play defensive back as well.
Juniors Preston Lasala (6-5, 215) and Chase Sumner (6-4, 200) give the Lancers more size at the wide-out slots and both will help out in the secondary or as linebackers. Junior Cody Marazita (5-8, 170) is a powerful runner who will gain a lot of carries on the ground this season.
Another prospect to watch will be freshman Ryan Kostich (5-10, 175), who has great leaping ability. Kostich will play in the secondary or be a receiver in the Lancers’ Veer offense. Senior Chris Polite, an All-State soccer player and a college prospect in that sport, will serve as the kicker and punter and also fill in as a tight end or receiver.
“It is slowly coming together,” said Schaeffer. “I think when Dennis Hopkins, our athletics director, helped bring in football five years ago, they knew it would take a few years. I think it is starting to take root. Are we going to win a league championship this year. No. But the guys have been working like they want to and that’s good to see. We only have a few seniors, so we will have most of this team back next season. I think next year we will really be a competitive team. I also think that this year we can win a couple of more games. We have come a long ways.”
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian
HEAD COACH: Bill Schaeffer, second season (2-7 at Oakland Christian).
ASSISTANT COACHES: Rusty Mandle, Brian Hoffman, Joe Whitt, Jeremiah Nichols, Andrew Kern, Chris Lewis, Nick Quinn
2011 RECORD: 2-7, 1-5 MIAC (sixth place); did not qualify.
POSTSEASON APPEARANCES: None
RETURNING STARTERS: Josh Rupright, sr. DL-OL (6-0, 185); Stephen Nichols, soph. WR-QB-DB (6-5, 230); Bobby Roose, jr. OL-DL (6-1, 285); Javarian Smith, soph. QB-DB(5-10, 175); Preston Lasala, jr. WR-LB (6-5, 215); Chase Sumner, jr. WR-LB (6-4, 200); Cody Marazita, jr. RB-LB (5-8, 170).
KEY PROSPECTS: Ryan Kostich, fr. WR-DB (5-10, 175); Chris Polite, sr. K-P-WR (6-0, 165).
NOTABLES: This is the fifth year of football for Oakland Christian and second with Schaeffer in charge, a veteran who has coached prep football in Michigan since 1972. The Lancers have their most experience and talent yet and are hoping to climb above the five hundred mark for the first time. There are three Lancers currently on the college radar and this team is improved in all areas. Could this be a sleeper team in the six-team MIAC this season? The numbers are up to over 20 players and all indications point to Oakland Christian being one of the region’s most improved teams.
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