So, how exactly does one follow one of the greatest seasons in the history of Frederick County football?
That’s a question that figures to hover over Oakdale for the duration of the coming season.
The Bears know the comparisons are inevitable. They are also well-aware that this season will be different from the last when they decimated all 13 opponents on their way to their first state championship.
But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it will be any less. Right now, whose to say they can’t achieve just as much?
“I mean, I am not going to be satisfied if we don’t get back to Navy,” senior Ethan Reifer said, referring to the site of the state championship games.
Oakdale averaged 42 points per game last season, allowed only seven per contest and beat opponents by an average of 34 points. When asked what the offense might look like this season, Reifer shot back, “Identical to last year.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Reifer, who previously shined as a receiver and linebacker, has the unenviably task of taking over at quarterback for Colin Schlee, perhaps the finest to ever play it in the county.
Not one to lack confidence, Reifer doesn’t flinch at the challenge.
“My mission [over the summer] was to get myself up to [Schlee’s] level, where I could make the throws he could make last year,” he said. “There are throws last year where my arm strength wasn’t there or I wasn’t reading defenses as well. Now, I think it’s all coming together with my arm strength and knowing the playbook and things like that.”
On some level, the Bears will look different, maybe drastically so. How could they not after 26 seniors graduated, including Schlee (Kent State), leading rusher Simeon Sabvute (Lehigh), the quarterback of the defense, Maurio Goings (Delaware State), and five-star kicking recruit Justin Ritter (James Madison)?
Many of the players taking on prominent roles logged playing time last season in the second half of Oakdale’s blowout wins, which comprised most of the schedule.
The biggest challenge is getting everyone up to speed and playing well together.
“When we get a weird front, are we going to identify it and block it correctly? When we get a weird formation on defense, are we going to get lined up correctly?” coach Kurt Stein said. “You know, those are things that we didn’t have to think about last year. We just knew they would do it.”
While there will be a new name in many of the positions, the one on the front of the jersey will still say Oakdale.
“We are at the top right now. Everyone is targeting us,” Reifer said. “Even in 7-on-7 [competitions], everyone was focused on their ‘A game’ when they were playing us. A lot of people wouldn’t even take out their starters when they played us. They were just trying to beat us any way they could.”
The Bears will count on four senior players who made significant contributions toward last year’s championship to set the example and lead the way. They are Reifer, receiver and defensive end Luke Carey, running back an linebacker Dylan Berney and guard and defensive end Ben Bevilacqua.
Stein believes the 6-1, 225-pound Carey, a disruptive run stopper, has the chance to be the best defensive player in the county.
“I am sure we will make some mistakes early, as we work out the kinks. But I think the guys can get it done. I think we can be good,” Stein said. “It’s just one of those things where how long will it take us to learn all of the things that we need to learn.”
Region: Class 2A West
League: Central Maryland Conference
Postseason appearances: 5
Last playoff appearance: 2018
State championships: 1
Coach and record with team: Kurt Stein, ninth season, 55-33
2018 record: 13-0
2018 review: The Bears left no doubt about their greatness. They thoroughly dominated the competition on their way to the first state title in program history. Their smallest margin of victory was 17 points. Along the way, they routed Class 3A finalist Linganore on the road, 56-7, snapped the longest winning streak in the country at 53 with a victory over three-time defending state champion Damascus in the 2A West regional final and scored 35 unanswered points in the 2A championship game against a Glenelg team that hadn't allowed more than 19 in a game all season. This Oakdale team will be remembered as one of the best in Frederick County history.
Returning starters: 2 offense, 4 defense