Panthers building toward stronger program

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Team looking forward after 2 wins in 2016
By: 

Times Herald Photo by Chris Caporale

Oconto Falls wide receiver Sam Virtues (34) works through a tackling drill with the linebackers during a practice last week. Virtues will be one of many Panthers taking on bigger roles in 2017 after the departure of a talented class of playmakers.

After two wins in Barry Derickson’s first year as the head coach of the Oconto Falls football program, his hopes are higher this season for a team that had not won multiple games since 2011.

“Everyone knows what they’re doing from last year,” Derickson said. “It will be a lot easier transition.”

The Panthers lost some of their top playmakers from a season ago, including quarterback Connor Scray, running back Mac Winkler and wide receiver Brice Delzer.

This season, Oconto Falls is looking for big things from Cliff Yuma (running back), Sam Virtues (wide receiver) and Dan Ausloos (defensive line).

Derickson also expects junior Keeshawn Katers to see some more playing time. First-year starter Camden Jackson will join the offensive line.

“Last year, I thought there was a little bit of disconnect and uncertainty because there was a new coach,” Derickson said. “But I think this year, they know what’s expected, they know how to get it done.”

Derickson said roughly 70 football players spent time in the weight room during the offseason.

“We are trying to build the best team that we have, so no matter who we have on the team, we are going to do the best at what they are doing,” Jackson said.

Derickson believes the passing game will be stronger, because of the playmakers on the outside and familiarity with the system.

Derickson’s up-tempo practices and were a hit with the players, which helped ease the transition in the first year.

“He brought a different dynamic to our practices. He kind of made them a little more lively and made it a little more fast-moving,” Jackson said. “I really appreciated how he changed the dynamic of practice, personally for me, I thought it was a great time.”

Now, it’s about carrying over the successes and learning how to win on a more consistent basis.

Derickson said he sees the culture changing around the football program, and expectations of the athletes going up, even in a tough North Eastern Conference that regularly sends its top teams deep into the WIAA playoffs.

“I want these seniors to be successful, and I think this entire team wants that,” Derickson said. “We are working toward that same goal, and we are trying to do something that hasn’t been done in about two decades now, which is make the playoffs and also add that playoff win. That is one of their goals, and they want to get that done.”

Oconto Fall went 2-7 overall and 1-7 in the North Eastern Conference last season. The Panthers defeated Green Bay West, 14-6, and Clintonville, 39-0. Green Bay West is no longer on the schedule, as Oconto Falls picked up New London as its one nonconference game in the season opener Aug. 17 at home.

AT A GLANCE

Oconto Falls High School

Football Schedule

Aug. 17 vs. New London

Aug. 25 at Little Chute

Sept. 1 vs. Marinette

Sept. 8 at Freedom

Sept. 15 vs. Denmark

Sept. 22 at Wrightstown

Sept. 29 vs. Fox Valley Lutheran

Oct. 6 at Clintonville

Oct. 13 vs. Luxemburg-Casco