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Oldham County football preview: Harding to lead Shatzer’s first OC team

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By Brad Stephens

BUCKNER – First-year Oldham County coach Mike Shatzer’s quarterback philosophy is that if you have two, you don’t have any.

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Last year OC rotated three and the Colonels went 2-9.

This year Shatzer hopes sticking to one signal-caller will lead to better play at that position and a better record.

The quarterback who got the nod from his new coach is senior James Harding.

“We’ve hung our hat on James and we’re going to ride him and hopefully it pans out,” Shatzer said.

Harding split reps with Ryan Grattan and Jeremiah Bosco last season. Grattan graduated and Bosco moved to Utah this summer.

Now the quarterback spot is Harding’s. In the case a backup quarterback is needed, his younger brother, Ammon, will get that call.

But Shatzer has made it clear that Harding won’t have to look over his shoulder if he makes a mistake.

“It helps me a lot just to know I can go out there and play and do what I do,” Harding said. “I can just have that clear mind in the back where you can think about each play… and not worry about making a mistake because everybody’s going to make a mistake. It’s just getting it and going to the next play.”

Harding has done a good job understanding the Colonels’ run-first, play-action offense they’ll employ this season, senior receiver Allan Farrow said.

“I’ve seen that he’s looking at all the receivers and actually looking at the different routes and going through his progressions a lot better than he did last year,” Farrow said. “…Since we’re a run-first team I think we’ll be able to get teams to blitz more and then we’ll throw the deep ball on them and beat them.”

Joining Harding in the backfield will be running back Jason Henry and fullback Jacob Yahl. Parker Hennings and Jaret Baker will also get some carries at running back, Shatzer said.

Farrow is joined at wide receiver by Trey Tucker and Carson Axtell, Farrow’s lacrosse teammate who came out for the football team this season.

Justin Viar and Isiah Kelly will handle the load at tight end.

“We want to be balanced,” Shatzer said. “A lot of it’s predicated on what the defense gives us…

“We want to run the football but we’ve got to be able to pass. With James at quarterback and our trio of receivers, we feel good about that.”

The offensive line is anchored by left tackle Jonathan Queenan and center Alastair Smith.

“He’s a little undersized but he makes up for it with technique and intelligence,” Shatzer said of Smith. “He’s a smart kid.”

The other spots up front will be solidified based on performance over the coming weeks, Shatzer said.

The defensive front will be anchored by Jacob Brown, Ian Fullerton and Spencer Adams.

OC’s defensive leader, Brian Barmantje, will play next to Alex McIntosh at middle linebacker in the Colonels’ 4-4 defense. Flanking those two will be Spencer Johnson and Viar.

“We’re a lot deeper at linebacker this year,” Barmantje said. “We’ve got a lot of people that can fill in if somebody were to go down, or if somebody’s tired…

“We’re run-oriented up the middle and then we’ve got two good pass linebackers in Justin Viar and Spencer Johnson that can make plays on the outside too.”

On the back end are Axtell, Farrow, Will Jennings, Ben Leaton and others.

On special teams, the Colonels must fill the right foot of Sean Nuernberger, the first-team all-state kicker who is now kicking for Ohio State University.

David Gonzales and Garrett Kulp are splitting those duties right now, Shatzer said.

“We do have big shoes to fill,” Shatzer said. “But we’re not looking for a Division I kicker.

“We’re looking for someone who can kick PATs and put us in good position on kickoffs. But now we realize we have to actually cover the kick… So we’ve worked really hard on kickoff. We know we have to tackle and make plays.”

Farrow will serve as the team’s punter.

OC opens with a winnable game Friday night at home against Iroquois.

The Colonels will get chances to avenge losses from last year to both county rivals and all three district foes – Fern Creek, Eastern and Ballard – before moving from 6A to 5A in 2015.

Right now there isn’t a set number of wins OC needs to reach this season, Shatzer said.

The main goal is playing competitively this year and laying the foundation for future OC teams.

“We want to compete and we want to play hard and keep building for the future,” Shatzer said. “…We’re not putting any must-wins. We want to win the games we’re supposed to and maybe steal one or two.”
 

2014 OLDHAM COUNTY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

8/22 Iroquois, 7:30

8/29 at North Oldham, 7:30

9/5 at Franklin County, 7:30

9/12 South Oldham, 7:30

9/19 North Bullitt, 7:30

9/26 Bullitt East, 7:30

10/10 at Fern Creek, 7:30

10/17 at Eastern, 7:30

10/24 Ballard, 7:30

10/31 at Jeffersontown, 7:30

Email us about this article at sports@oldhamera.com.