Four years later, the Wildcats of 2012 and 2009 share virtually no similarities. Having already locked up their second consecutive playoff appearance and sitting at the top of Class 2A, Region 7 standings as its only undefeated team, Oakman already has a long list of achievements that has made this season particularly special for its students, fans and community.
However, the Wildcats have their sights set even higher — winning its first region championship since 2003. With a victory over the Aliceville Yellow Jackets (4-3, 4-1) on Friday night at Memorial Stadium, Oakman can not only bring a region title home and secure first round home field advantage in the playoffs, but also cap off one of the best seasons in the program’s recent history.
Hastings attributes much of the team’s success this year to the communication that has been established among the players and the coaching staff, as well as the dedication his young men have shown in continually improving their game play.
“We’ve basically been coaching the same guys for four years — some of them started playing when they were eighth and ninth graders and have grown up in our system. When you have that type of long-term experience with a group of players, you get to know year-in and year-out what the strengths and weaknesses are of your team and tailor your gameplan according to it,” Hastings said. “The kids that we coach understand each other and know what is expected of them by the coaching staff and when you have those advantages working for you, good things happen.”
Coming into the season, the Wildcat offense was expected to put up big numbers with returning stars such as Jase Trotter, Quinton Harris and Eiljah Farley and a veteran line leading the way.
Thus far, a pleasant surprise for the coaching staff and Oakman supporters has been the play of the defense — whose play has steadily grown stronger as the year progressed.
“Even in games where the scoring is high for the other team, it’s usually in the instance of them picking up a touchdown on a mistake by our offense or when we have substituted our starters out to give the younger players more experience,” Hastings said.
“Our defense is getting better by the week. When you have linebackers like Don Tyler Jackson and Reilly Williams, defensive backs such as Quinton Harris and Purvis Coger and our linemen leaders, you know they’re going to work hard to improve. We’ve shored up some weak areas that were challenging us at the beginning of the season and our adjusting to these obstacles and performing cohesively on defense has been a major factor in our success up to this point.”