Kevin Keeton’s first action as the newly named Oak Park head coach had very little to do with the X’s and O’s of football.
Instead, he selected players to form a leadership council, then took the chosen group on a day retreat to the Tucker Leadership Lab at William Jewell College. The hope was to develop better leaders — and in turn a better mindset — on a football team that has won only three games over the past three seasons.
“We knew the first thing we had to get done was a culture change,” Keeton said. “On the retreat, they developed core covenants and presented those to the team. And those have been our war cries.”
The covenants have as much to do with life as they do with football, Keeton said. But the hope is the former will help the latter.
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“I would say the overall theme is we have to find our heartbeat as a team,” Keeton said. “We’ve done some things proactively to get that done.”
That starts with assignment football. Oak Park allowed at least 42 points in all but one game last season. The defense — led by linebackers Greg Coble and Josh Gray — has focused on sticking to its proper alignments and correct assignments to eliminate offenses’ big-play potential.
“An old man told me a long time ago that misalignments and missed assignments will get you beat more than mismatches,” Keeton said. “I’ve stuck with that statement.”
The offense will stick with the wing-T, with fullback Marquis Caldwell aiming for a second straight 1,000-yard season. Tailback Bryson Stiggar and quarterback Joey Scott will also tote the football.