As the seasons change, traditions remain and the winning tradition Kevin Creasy has established at Oakland High School has produced five consecutive Region 3-6A championships and a state championship appearance twice in four seasons.
Along with an offense that puts up big numbers (averaged 46 points per game and an average margin of victory of 37.5 per game last season), young players often receive second-half action that is rewarding in the future.
“We have so many sophomore and juniors that get valuable playing time late in ball games,” Creasy said. “(Assistant coach) Josh Harris is in charge of the freshman team and he puts them in the right direction. It is no wonder our younger guys are undefeated (in freshman season) because of the amount of time we invest into them and that pays off when they get to varsity.”
Along with experienced, young talent, Oakland returns five starters on offense and four on defense but the biggest addition in the off-season was the transfer of junior running back Jordan James, who is the topped-ranked player in the state.
“(James) is really good running back that has great hands out of the backfield,” Creasy said. “We know he can run but he can pass block and do anything we need him too. He is the real deal.”
James transferred from Brentwood Academy after rushing for 1,100 yards and 18 touchdowns in a shortened sophomore season. The junior tailback is regarding by many recruiting services as a top 100 recruit nationally and ranked first in Tennessee by 247sports.com in the 2022 class.
Adding James to an already deep group of running backs makes the Patriots that more dangerous. Antonio Patterson rushed for 500 yards his sophomore season and multi-threat Victor Stephenson will receive touches from running back and some under center.
“James will receive a lot of carries, but I look for Patterson to have a really good year after having an impressive sophomore year,” Creasy says. “(Stephenson) is a great runner and provides options for us to get him involved.”
Junior athlete Michael Foglia has big expectations set by Creasy to receive some touches at wideout. Experienced senior wideout Xaviur Patterson creates a challenge for opposing defenses because of his versatility. Seniors Bryson Dobbs and Cassius Thorpe will share time at tight end and will be key blockers as well.
Senior Ian Schlachter will handle most of the quarterback duties for the Patriots this year. Playing in front of Schlacter is plenty of size and experience, but none have drawn more attention from colleges this offseason than left tackle Graham Keating.
“(Keating) has had a great offseason in the weight room and is catching the eyes of colleges,” Creasy said on the seniors 20-plus college offers.
Center Alex Jones is the only other senior on the line. Juniors Tezjioh Knox and Carson Shaw fill up the guard positions and junior Elliot Ellis is responsible for right tackle.
Creasy will lean heavily on defensive line to receive lots of snaps in 2020. All juniors received quality minutes as sophomores, including Ethan Mclaurin, Caleb Cole and Theron Gaines. Kylan Spencer is the fourth and final defensive lineman that returns with quality minutes from a season ago. The outside linebacker group is led by Kobe Manning, who has good speed and great ability to set the edge.
“We hang our hat on defense and (Manning and Spencer) can be a force,” Creasy said. “Manning gives us a lot of versatility because we can play him anywhere.”
With limited offseason work, many players will receive looks early on at linebacker, but Creasy said it is a healthy competition for the starting position. Leading the competition is sophomores Evan Harris, Jerrell Franklin and senior Giovanni Grandieson.
Oakland has to replace an athletic defensive backfield after graduating Cincinnati signee De’Arre McDonald and safety DD Anderson. Comparable to McDonald and Anderson’s athleticism is two-way players Stephenson and Xaviur Patterson, who will play the corners. Senior Cameron Crutchfield and junior Alsethony McGhee will play safety.
QB: Ian Schlacter, SR
RB: Jordan James, JR; Antonio Patterson, JR; Cassius Thorpe, SR
WR: Victor Stephenson, SR; Xaviur Patterson, SR; Michael Foglia, JR
TE: Bryson Dobbs, SR
OL: Graham Keating, SR; Caleb Cole, JR; Alex Jones, SR; Carson Shaw, JR; Tezjioh Knox, JR
DL: Ethan Mclaurin, JR; Caleb Cole, JR; Theron Gaines, JR; Kylan Spencer, SR
LB: Kobe Manning, SR; Evan Harris, SO; Jerrell Franklin, SO
DB: Victor Stephenson, SR; Xaviur Patterson, SR; Cameron Crutchfield, SR; Alsethony McGhee, JR
K/P: Trey Turk, SR
8/28: at Kenwood
9/4: at Siegel
10/16: at Riverdale
10/23: Coffee County
10/30: at Warren County