After notching its most wins in a season since 2008, Oak Park looks to keep the trend upward in 2019.
Oak Park, 4-7 in 2018 in the second year under Kenneth Clemens, eclipsed three wins for the first time since 2008 in the Keith Ross era.
Clemens, who started the successful Liberty North program before moving to Oak Park in 2017, feels the Northmen will continue on the rise.
"We have a good group of seniors and they are complimented with a good junior class and some sophomores who will contribute," Clemens touted. " From my view, this will be our most experienced and talented team in quite a while."
Leading the way will be senior Colton Tisthammer (6-foot-1, 185). Tisthammer rushed for 553 yards and 3 TDs as a junior - 438 of those yards came in five games during Week 2 through Week 8, when he garnered 10+ carries in those games. He alos notched 71 tackles en route to being named an all-conference first team selection.
Also coming back will be Blake Bland, a 6-foot-2, 185 senior. The three-year starter threw for 679 yards and 7 TDs, while running for 316 yards and 5 scores. Bland will need to improve upon his 15 interceptions from a year ago.
In the backfield, senior Phil Corbin (5-foot-9, 180) was named an honorable mention all league after rushing for 684 yards - including games of 148 and 186 yards. But Corbin only played in seven games, missing all of October. Fellow senior Najib Alhakeem (5-foot-10, 185) also will see time at running back, but missed nine games a year ago.
"Injuries killed us last year," Clemens said. "Critical turnovers and special teams gaffes also played a large part in each of our losses. We won four games, but believe we could've won a few more without those problems. Our key to winning more games will be to stay healthy, protect the ball, and play consistently good on special teams."
Up front, Jackson White (6-foot-3, 280) was tabbed second-team all conference and will be a three-year starter. Fellow seniors Desmond Lamb (6-0, 300), Ryan Woodson (6-foot-4, 280), and Taylor Buenaflow (6-0, 260) will comprise the front unit.
Junior Logan Willman (6-foot-1, 170) and senior Jeffrey Banks (6-foot-1, 185) will line up at receivers.
Defensively, White, Lamb, Woodson and Buenaflor will anchor the trenches. Tisthammer, Corbin and Banks will comprise the linebacker corps, while Alhakeem and Willman will lead the secondary.
"Though likely improved, the schedule won't be easy for Oak Park, with North Kansas City and Raytown along with traditional power Fort Osage composing a tough league slate. Platte County also highlights the non-con portion. But we expect some great things to happen for this group."