Ocosta Wildcats football preview

Coming off a rebuilding year where his team went 3-6 on the season with just one league win, Ocosta head coach Chris Raffelson’s theme during training camp has been one taking the next step forward. And it starts with the Wildcats’ playbook.

“We started a new system last year and the kids have worked through it,” said Raffelson, who enters his second season at the helm of the Wildcats program. “We’ve added the rest of the playbook this year and the kids came in and worked hard in the spring and are all over the playbook and they’re ready to go.

“We’re in our fourth practice and I think the kids are ready to play a game right now.”

A big part of that process is expanding on the read-option offense Raffelson implemented in 2017.

“We have a couple of other formations we’ve ran with (the read-option) that we’ve put in this year. We didn’t want to put the whole thing in at once — to confuse the kids — so we’ve used it as building blocks as they are coming up.”

In addition to running an expanded offensive scheme, the Wildcats will feature what is likely to be the biggest offensive line in the 2B Coastal League, which should improve upon a team that averaged a little over 14 points per game and finished fifth in 2017.

“We’ve got a pretty good O-line this year,” said Raffelson, who estimated his group up front to average 250 pounds. “If we can keep them healthy and moving, then I think we have some good talent to run behind them.”

Furthermore, Raffelson stated the offensive line talent doesn’t stop with his front five, but extends down the bench.

“We’ve got some good hogs this year. I’ve got seven or eight good lineman we can run through,” he said.

Anchoring the line will be the responsibility of seniors such as Austin McDonald and Tyler Jones, who will be tasked with opening seams in opposing defenses for the likes of Kobe Beck and Jayden Matthews to burst through.

Raffelson expects the competition for the starting quarterback job to be between Cole Hatton and Matthews, but similar to what he has done with the rest of his roster, has yet to name a starter, which is also part of the method behind the rebuilding process.

“Every spot is open,” he said. “We’re going to put the best 11 on the field. … It doesn’t matter if we are in week five of the season, every position is open. We are going to challenge you week-to-week and if somebody isn’t willing to play ball that week, they’ll sit the bench and we’ll bring somebody up.”

It’s that open competition mentality, expanding the playbook and an increased effort in the weight room that has Raffelson hopeful for an improved Wildcats season in 2018.

“Our main goal when we came in as coaches was to change the mentality from an after-school activity to a football program,” he said. “My expectations are that we are going to be competitive. … Last year we won three games. I expect us to be well over .500 this year.”