BY CHAD DARE
Most people are probably not expecting very much from the 2013 Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac Comets.
The program has won just five games in the past two seasons and they are 3-12 in their last 15 games, but in the second year of under coach Jeremy Dirksmeyer, the players are thinking about the playoffs.
“People should not underestimate us,’’ said Andrew Curley, an Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac senior. “We have some experience. We’re quick. And we’re aggessive.’’
Curley is one of seven returning starters on the defensive side for the Comets, and he is one of five with starting experience on offense.
“That experience has built confidence. We know what we are doing after one season in the program and what it takes to be successful,’’ Curley said. “All the trouble we’ve had the past few years has motivated us to get better.’’
Junior running back Zach Horatschki, who rushed for nearly 700 yards a year ago, along with junior quarterback Parker Lee will give Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac a balanced 1-2 punch out of the backfield.
“Our backfield is really tough,’’ Horatschki said. “We’re fast and we’re going to aggressive. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people this season.’’
Horatschki, who says the 2013 Comets are “hungry” for success, said the biggest change in the offense will be their attitude.
“We didn’t play as aggressively as we needed to,’’ he said. “And that’s why we didn’t make the playoffs. We are going to so much more aggressive this season.’’
Allowing Horatschki and Lee to be aggressive will be the job of the offensive line, which will be anchored by senior Skyler Slade.
“We have very high expectations for ourselves — our goal is to make the playoffs,’’ said Slade, who was a freshman the last time the Comets appeared in the IHSA Playoffs.
“The last few years have been a learning experience,’’ Slade said. “I remember seeing those guys during my freshman year, they were working hard every week to accomplish their goal. I expected that was how it was going to be every year, but we didn’t get that goal accomplished.
“Winning is always the key, but you have to keep working hard and never forget what happened in the past. We have to use that as motivation.’’
Slade definitely believes the strength of this team will be its defense with seven returning starters.
“We like to fly around and play physical,’’ he said.
Dirksmeyer admits its nice to have plenty of experience returning in his second year.
“We still have our hiccups, but the system is the same and the coaching staff is the same,’’ he said. “When practice started this year, we were able to move things a lot faster, but the kids already knew what we needed to get done.
“So, we are anticipating better things from this group.’’
And that progress might be tough to measure this season as Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac is scheduled to play six teams that made the playoffs a year ago, including Flangan/Cornell/Woodland, who replaces the defunct program at East Central (0-9).
“Two of those teams that didn’t make the playoffs were Westville (3-6) and Arcola (4-5), and those teams have been to the playoffs in the past,’’ Dirksmeyer said. “I want our kids to play a tough schedule and we’re doing that. I think that will make us tougher at the end of the season.’’
But, can they make the playoffs?
“First off, we preach week-by week,’’ he said. “We are just going to worry about each week as it comes along.
“But, if they believe in themselves and they believe in each other — the playoffs is a goal that can be attained.’’
This summer, the Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac program made some positive strides according to Dirksmeyer.
“We worked on leadership, character and commitment to the team,’’ he said. “We needed to make sure that they were buying into the program.
“This summer the commitment was much better. We have a big group of kids playing football right now, and I want my older kids to help cultivate the program.’’
Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac will kick off the 2013 season this Friday on the road at Flangan/Cornell/Woodland. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The first home game for the Comets will be Friday, Aug. 13, when Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac hosts Arcola in a 7 p.m. contest.
Head Coach — Jeremy Dirksmeyer
2012 record — 3-6
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 30 at Flanagan (coop) 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Arthur-Lovington 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 Arcola 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Hoopeston Area * 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Geo-RF/Chrisman * 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 Bismarck-Henning * 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 Westville * 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Milford/C-P * 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Salt Fork * 7 p.m.
* — Vermilion Valley Conference
All times Central