Aug. 22—OSKALOOSA — Brett Doud enters his third season leading the Oskaloosa football program as a new district schedule and a couple of wrinkles in the non-district should provide him with some different challenges coming off a tough 1-8 season in 2022.
The Indians graduated 13 seniors from last year's team but will return 11 boys with varsity experience. Those returners include seniors JT Baker, Boston Barnhart, Wyatt Grubb, Chase Holmes and Kristian Cortez and juniors Maddux Ashman, Jaden DeRonde, Caden Johnson, Jake Greenhalgh, Parker Lewis, Dom Piersel and Lukas Toubekis.
Baker got injured week one last year and missed the rest of the season. He was having a good game before getting hurt, tallying five carries for 38 yards and one touchdown. He isn't the biggest guy but he brings good twitch and big play ability to the running back position and could be asked to play some safety as well on defense.
Barnhart is a two-year starter on the offensive line and will bring some stability and knowledge to help the newcomers there as well.
Grubb brings good size and tenacity on both sides of the ball. He is a great lead blocker at fullback but is also a great offensive option himself and can be lighter on his feet than you would expect for being 6-foot, 230 pounds. Last year he had 19 carries for 141 yards as well as 39 catches for 350 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, the linebacker was the team's second leading tackler with 44.5 tackles including 4.5 for a loss.
Holmes is expected to see time at linebacker (8.5 tackles last year) and on the offensive line with Cortez set to play both lines.
For the juniors, Ashman saw time at wide receiver last year for the Indians catching nine passes for 102 yards. He is an option there but could also play some defensive back as well. DeRonde is in a similar situation after finishing with one catch but also 23 tackles and one fumble recovery.
Johnson brings some experience to both lines while Greenhalgh can play some wide receiver and defensive back.
Lewis could be a key guy to watch as Oskaloosa looks for a new quarterback this fall. Lewis got some reps after serving as backup last year where he was 8-for-16 for 140 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also spent time at wide receiver last year catching five passes for 44 yards. He knows the system well and could provide some running and athleticism that Osky hasn't had in that position for several years.
Piersel was one of the team's primary running backs last season finishing with 229 yards on 74 carries (3.1 yards per carry) as well as 10 catches for 74 yards and one touchdown. He also played linebacker on defense and finished with 23 tackles.
Toubekis rounds out what could be a good linebacker core for Oskaloosa. He finished with 24.5 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season as a sophomore.
Schedule wise, Osky gets two at home and two on the road starting with an opening night matchup against Washington. The two used to play regularly with Washington holding a slight 4-3 lead in the series since 2008. The Demons were 5-4 last year and will provide Osky with a good test to start the season.
The Indians then face a short week before heading to Des Moines Hoover for an odd Thursday night game. It will be interesting to see how both teams handle the short week but it has been a tough run for the Huskies, who haven't won more than three games in a season in each of the past seven years.
Oskaloosa then returns home to face Grinnell, who have been very tough in recent years before finishing off the non-district with a trip to Ottumwa. The Bulldogs and Indians have been very evenly matched and have played some exciting games in each of the past three seasons.
District play starts up after that with Osky seeing a mix of familiar and new faces. They start with a trip to Clear Creek Amana, who they fought hard to a 28-14 loss last year, before returning home to face Clinton, who has had six straight losing seasons, for homecoming. The Indians will then turn around and head to face the always difficult powerhouse that is Xavier before returning home to celebrate senior night against Burlington, who they beat two years ago but lost 20-3 in 2022. Osky will finally wrap up the regular season with a trip to North Scott to face a Lancer team that has had nine wins in each of the past six seasons.
Offensively, the Indians will have to break in several new faces in the passing game at quarterback and finding a new number one option outside with the graduation of Waylon Bolibaugh. The running game will have some options with the return of Baker, Piersel and Grubb with all three providing something different in the backfield. A lot of that success though will be determined by the growth of the offensive line, which struggled to open up enough holes and limited the Osky running game to just 3.2 yards per carry and two touchdowns. The Indians averaged just 10.4 points per game last season and with improvements in a couple of areas and with a little bit more manageable of a schedule, they should have a good chance to see that go up this fall.
Defensively, Oskaloosa allowed 29.7 points per game a year ago. They return some good pieces at linebacker that should be solid against most team's run games. They will hope for some more production up front after finishing with 7.5 sacks and as well as in the secondary with just two interceptions last year. A couple more impact plays here and there to set up a shorter field for the offense would go a long way.
As for the special teams, the Indians will need to look for a new returner for kicks and punts but they return their kicker in Linus Morrison who made two of his three field goals and eight of his nine PATs. Lewis also served as the team's primary punter last year with 33.3 yards per punt average.
The schedule sets up what could be an interesting season for Oskaloosa. It has a good mix of winnable games and a couple of toss up games if the Indians are healthy and playing well. Unfortunately the Indians face a couple of juggernauts late in the season which could prove to be very tough depending on how things are going.
The Indians have a very good chance to improve from last year but with low numbers (10 seniors, 12 juniors, 19 sophomores), injuries will challenge their depth and Osky will need to find solutions at a couple of key spots this fall.
"This group has a senior class that are eager to leave their mark," Doud said. "They are supported by a solid junior and sophomore class. The team is gelling together very well at this point, really buying into the 'We, not me' mentality."
Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.