Oak Hall continues to be model of consistency

Oak Hall's Dakota Brower (1) returns at quarterback for the Eagles.
Oak Hall's Dakota Brower (1) returns at quarterback for the Eagles.
Photo by C.J. Gish

Last year was “kind of a crazy year” for the Oak Hall School football program, according to head coach R.J. Fuhr.

The Eagles had a game that was forfeited by the other team but then they didn’t take the forfeit and ended up scheduling Bronson, a 43-14 win.

Their game against rival St. Francis Catholic Academy got canceled because the refs didn’t show.

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R.J. Fuhr
Photo by Tim Rodriquez R.J. Fuhr

And the team that the Eagles lost to in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference (SSAC) playoffs, Central Florida Christian Academy (Ocoee), had to forfeit their victory a week after they beat them due to at least one ineligible player.

The Eagles finished the season 8-0, advancing to the postseason for the eighth straight year.

“It was an odd undefeated season,” said Fuhr, who enters his sixth year as the head coach and 10th overall. “It was definitely a strange season but anytime you go undefeated it’s a big feat for our kids.”

This year’s squad only lost four players to graduation and they’ve kept busy during the summer.

Oak Hall competed in both 7v7 tournaments at the University of Florida against much bigger schools and did well. They also participated in a 7v7 at The Villages and the SSAC’s 7v7 tournament, “The Throwdown in O-town,” at Mount Dora Christian.

“That one (SSAC) we went 4-2 and our two losses were by a combined five points,” Fuhr said. “We only had 11 guys that weekend because we had some guys that were injured, some guys were on vacation, so it’s been good for us. We’ve had a good summer. We definitely have been busy.”

Oak Hall's Abram Jerkins (2) knifes through the line for a tackle against Impact Christian on Thursday.
Photo by C.J. Gish Oak Hall’s Abram Jerkins (2) knifes through the line for a tackle against Impact Christian on Thursday.

He also had his linemen attend a camp, along with four other players who participated at a camp at the University of West Florida.

A total of nine starters return on offense, including junior Dakota Brower, a three-year starter at quarterback.

Last year he threw for almost 800 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also ran for 309 yards on only 35 carries with three scores.

Leading rusher Briggs Copeland is back. He ran for 536 yards as a sophomore and also led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Other key returnees on offense include Christopher Davis (center) and Carter Dykes (WR/TE/RB).

“The offense is looking way better,” said Sirderick Farley, a rising senior who will also play running back. “We looked at what we were missing, stuff we needed for the offense, so this year we incorporated those things and our offense is looking a lot better.”

There are six starters returning on what should be a tough, aggressive defense.

Sirderick Farley
Photo by Tim Rodriquez Sirderick Farley

Due to numbers (total of 27-28 players), many players will be playing both ways. These “iron men” will help create depth.

Abram Jerkins, who finished second on the team with 30 tackles and two sacks, is one of their top returners on offense (running back) and defense (linebacker), along with his younger brother Aidan Jerkins (LG/NG).

Abram, who will be a senior, thinks the team’s biggest strength is on the defensive side of the ball.

“Probably our blitzing,” he said. “You can’t throw the ball on us. We blitz a lot.”

Aidan, a junior, and Daniel Grow tied for the team lead last year with four sacks.

Grow, who will also be a junior, had a 60-yard touchdown catch in the spring game win against Impact Christian Academy (Jacksonville).

Aidan has high hopes for this season.

“I’m looking forward to a state championship, winning it with my team,” he said.

Photo by Tim Rodriquez Aidan Jerkins

The Eagles have developed a rivalry with Seven Rivers Christian (Lecanto), along with Eagle’s View (Jacksonville), based on the relationship that Fuhr has formed with those coaches and the respect they have for each other’s programs. They will play them on Sept. 8 and Sept. 29, respectively.

St. Francis dropped Oak Hall from its schedule and the Eagles replaced them with Master’s Academy (Oviedo) in the regular season finale on Oct. 20.

“I think that will be a really good test for us, and a good litmus test to see how good we are,” Fuhr said. “I don’t love that that’s our last game going into the playoffs, but in a way, I think it might be a good thing. I would say those three games if I had to pick three. I used to say St. Francis because it was our rival game, but again they took us off the schedule.”

Oak Hall looks to extend its playoff streak (2015-2022) to nine straight seasons in 2023.

“We’re primed and ready, if we stay healthy, I think we can make some noise again this year,” Fuhr said. “Our workouts have been great. The kids are ready to play football.”

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