Oxley looking to rebuild Lions’ football program

first_img Staff Writer   MARIE ORTIZ Middletown High School North senior quarterback Kevin Farrell warms up for a scrimmage against Toms River North Friday night. EEntering his first year as the head coach of the Middletown High School North football team, John Oxley knows he has hands full. Although he has just taken over what only a few years ago was a traditionally strong program but has since suffered through a pair of dismal seasons in which the team captured a combined two wins, Oxley is no stranger to Lions’ football. Oxley has served as an assistant coach at North for the past 13 years. He has seen some great teams as well as some not-so-great teams take the field, and recently he has seen some truly awful teams. But his optimism could be a sign of better things to come for Lions fans. “Right now we’re just trying to get on the right track,” he said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction, although we still have some work ahead of us.” Oxley, who last year served as the defensive coordinator and strength coach under longtime coach Mike Galos, has a mix of experienced and inexperienced players, all of whom are trying to learn some new things on both sides of the ball. “We’ve got a good mix of some young players, as well as a group of guys back from last year,” he said. “We lost all our backers, so that’s going to hurt, but I’m looking for the next group of guys to step in and do the job.” On the offensive side of the ball, Oxley is handing the reins over to senior Kevin Farrell, who was the team’s quarterback last year, when they went 2-8. Behind him will be sophomore tailback Bill Lyons, who Oxley said saw significant varsity time as a freshman and will carry the ball quite a bit for the Lions this year. Anchoring the offensive line will be senior left tackle Steven Freiberger, whom Oxley expects to help provide leadership for the relatively young offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Oxley is looking to senior middle linebacker Matt Walling, senior outside lineman Dan Guidice and senior safety Steven Olson to lead their young teammates. Oxley is also pleased with what he has seen so far from first-year starters Graham Dempsey, a senior center and defensive end, and Rob DeMarco, an offensive and defensive tackle. Oxley said that one of the first things he has tried to do as head coach is teach his players how to accept changes to the system. He added that this is made easier by the fact that despite being a first-year head coach, he has known all his players since they were freshmen. “People don’t always react well to change,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to get used to something different, but I think that if we’re successful, that process will become easier as we move along.” The Lions will open their season Friday night by traveling to Toms River South in a game which should be a very difficult first match-up for the boys from Middletown. “We’re kind of getting thrown right into the fire by playing down there, but we’re just trying to get better and see what happens,” Oxley said. In terms of building this team back into a championship ball club, Oxley is looking forward to the challenge. “I’ve been here for a long time, and I would like to help this team become a force again,” he said. “And like I said, I think we’re going in the right direction.” After two straight disappointing seasons, Oxley has got a lot of work ahead of him. But Lions fans are hoping that his emergence as head coach is just what the Lions need: a fresh start. By Doug mckenzie Staff Writer  last_img read more