A very special group of senior players helped Oakfield to an undefeated season and a win in the final 8-Player Football Jamboree in 2017. Now, with only one returning two-way starter back, the Oaks will be defending their conference title with a whole bunch of new faces.
Fourth-year coach Corey Rickert embraces the challenge, as most coaches do, as it becomes an opportunity for younger players to step into much larger roles. Rickert, who has spent a decade in the district coaching football at multiple levels, is also one of the state's more vocal proponents of 8-player football in Wisconsin.
The challenge for the Oaks this season is to replace all seven seniors, who each earned at least one first-team all-Great 8 honor during their careers, including conference Player of the Year Brandon Williams, who also made All-State his senior season in 2017. An area that will be getting a complete makeover will be the lines on both sides of the ball.
"We graduated our entire offensive and defensive line," said Rickert. "Austin Gitter has stepped up over the summer on the offensive line and is becoming a leader, and we expect Tanner Newton to become an anchor on the defensive line."
On defense, major contributors like Jacob Cedar and Michael Kottke are back, and several players who saw action on defense will also fill some major roles in 2018.
Offensively, Kottke is returning to start at fullback, with Cedar expected to be in the mix at quarterback, after throwing only one pass in 2017. Oakfield has several players who recorded a rush or reception in 2017 as well.
On special teams, both kicking specialists are gone, but return man Javaun Mielke is back after a solid freshman season for the Oaks.
Oakfield will again compete in the Great 8, which includes Madison-area teams Wisconsin Heights and Abundant Life/St. Ambrose.
There's only one home game for Oakfield in the first four weeks of the season (and only two in the first six). The Oaks host Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah to start. Then, it's three straight road games: at Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, at Port Edwards, and at McDonell.
After the Oaks return home to play Wisconsin Heights on September 14, they play their last road game at Elkhart Lake/Glenbeulah, before playing three straight home games to wrap up the regular season. It starts with Homecoming on September 28 against Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, followed by home rematches with Port Edwards and McDonell. The 8-Player Football Playoffs begin October 20.
Here is The Big 1070's conversation with Corey Rickert, head coach of the Oakfield Oaks:
Oakfield Oaks - Great 8 (8-Player)
Head Coach: Corey Rickert (4th Season), 23-6 Overall (2-1 Postseason) - 2016 Great 8 South Coach of the Year
2017 Result: 10-0 (4-0), 1st in the Great 8 (Won 50-33 over Northwood/Solon Springs in 8-Player Jamboree)
Three-Year Record: 23-6 (2-1 Postseason)
2017 All-Conference Honors: 9 First-Team, 0 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (9 total)
Three-Year All-Conference Totals: 20 First-Team, 3 Second-Team, 0 Honorable Mention (23 total)
Returning All-Conference Players (0): None.
Other Players To Watch: FB/LB Michael Kottke, Sr.; QB/DE Jacob Cedar, Sr.; WR/DB Bilguun Altangarrel, Sr.; OL/DL Tanner Newton, Sr.; RB/WR/DB Nic Roberts, Sr.; OL/DL Austin Gitter, Jr.; RB/DB Austin Balthazor, Jr.; RB/LB Reed Godfroy, Jr.; WR/DB Andre Artiles, Jr.; WR/DB Ryan Laning, Jr.; DB/ATH/ST Javaun Mielke, So.; OL/DL Blake Justmann, So.
BIG Games: at Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, August 25 (1pm); vs Wisconsin Heights, September 14; vs Abundant Life/St. Ambrose, September 28 (Homecoming)