The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

August 29, 2013

Oak Hill wants to build on last year’s success

— 2012 in review: There’s been a lot of change to Eddie Souk’s coaching career in recent years. In 2011, he began his first season away from Mount Hope, which closed its doors that spring and sent all its students to Souk’s new digs at Oak Hill.

Last year, the Red Devils played their first season in Class AAA. It was Souk’s first season at the state’s highest classification, and the run was successful. Oak Hill went 7-3 in the regular season and qualified for the state playoffs.

The Red Devils lost to Cabell Midland in the first round, but it was a landmark season for Oak Hill. It also served as a learning experience.

“You’ve got to have depth,” Souk said. “That’s the biggest difference I see (between AAA and the other classifications).”

The Red Devils lost a tackle and their center from the offensive line off last year’s team. That opens competition that Souk feels is valuable to the team.

“It gives you an opportunity to have some challenges for those positions,” Souk said. “The kids work hard to take over those positions.”

Who’s back: Senior halfback Jalen Jones will get the headlines, but Souk is quick to point out that there would be no running game without an offensive line.

“It all starts up front,” Souk said.

Seniors Seth Keith and Robert Kees are returning guards, while another senior, Kristian Brash, returns at one of the tackle positions.

“They have stepped up and been the team leaders we want up front,” Souk said.

Hidden gems: Jones, a 2,000-yard rusher last season, will be the featured back. But Souk looks for any of the other backs — Jarrell Green, Dakota Miller, Antonio Gray, K.K. Goodman, Tyler Painter or Antwon Smith — to have big years alongside Jones.

“All of them can play. We don’t see much of a (dropoff) with any of them,” Souk said. “Our backfield is interchangeable. I know everybody will be looking at Jalen Jones and what he does, but we are able to counter that and open a lot of different avenues for these kids.”

Putting points on the board: With Oak Hill’s move up to Class AAA, statewide attention to Jones skyrocketed. He responded to the pressure by rushing for 2,194 yards on 205 carries — 10.7 yards per tote — and 27 touchdowns.

But, as Souk said, there are several other running options for opponents to deal with. So many that it has forced Souk into a slight change in offensive philosophy.

“We are switching from the wishbone to the wing-T this year,” he said.

Goodman was second on the team in rushing last season with 767 yards and nine touchdowns and will start with Jones. Green, who ran for 222 yards and four scores last year, and Miller (108 yards) will rotate in.

Painter had 75 yards and a touchdown last season.

Smith leads six players who are getting preseason reps at fullback.

“That will pay big dividends with depth,” Souk said. “Hopefully we can develop that.”

Sophomore Deonte Scruggs takes over as the starting quarterback.

“He has thrown well and he listens well,” Souk said.

Noah Miller, also a sophomore, will be Scruggs’ backup.

“Both of them have had a good battle in camp,” Souk said. “Deonte is a little taller.

“We’re moving Noah around to tight end to take advantage of his athleticism. You can’t let your athletes sit on the sideline.”

Joining Miller as a tight end will be junior Joey Re. The split ends will be juniors Jacob Ashcraft and Marc Logan.

Up front, senior Charlie Carter will move into the starting role at the other tackle spot, while another senior, Kaleb Pietoski, will be the center.

Junior Jacob Lafferty will see action at guard and center, while junior Derrick Outterbridge has been getting practice reps at guard and tackle.

Making stops: Painter and Green will be the rovers in Oak Hill’s base defense.

Carter and Smith will be joined up front by sophomore Tate Wykle.

Linebackers will be Lafferty and Keith, as well as Noah Miller, who could also see time at rover.

In the secondary, Dakota Miller and Goodman will be the cornerbacks. Gray will be at free safety, and Ashcraft will see time at rover and corner.

Standing in the way: Anyone who knows Souk knows he won’t single out any one game as more important than another.

“They are all key,” Souk said.

But the first two games of the season could ultimately prove to be the most important. The Red Devils open the season against Elkins, then take on Musselman in Week 2.

Both games are on the road, followed by an open week.

“We just want to get off to a good start,” Souk said.

What’s in store: The goal for Oak Hill is no different than it is for any other team — get into the playoffs, play as well as possible and hopefully play for a state championship.

“I don’t think any coach in the state of West Virginia goes in thinking they are going to lose,” Souk said. “It’s going to take effort from all the kids as one. We always preach that they’ve got to do their jobs. Take care of your job first, then if you can help somewhere else go do that.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

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