Oak Mountain looking to add to already impressive season

Oak Mountain's Warren Shader looks to lead the Eagles in a first round AHSAA playoff matchup with James Clemens on Nov. 7 (FILE)

Oak Mountain’s Warren Shader looks to lead the Eagles in a first round AHSAA playoff matchup with James Clemens on Nov. 7 (FILE)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

By most standards, the Oak Mountain Eagles football team has had an impressive season so far. The 9-1 mark for the regular season is the best in school history, and the squad has clinched a first round home contest on Nov. 7 against the James Clemens High Jets.

While the regular season accomplishments are fun, head coach Cris Bell said the work was far from over, and that the team was focused on the task at hand.
“Our guys have a pretty good sense of purpose and have been on a mission all season,” he wrote in an email interview on Nov. 6. “We constantly preach that the next game is the biggest and most important, so we’re taking that same approach this week.”

That sense of purpose has turned the Eagles from youthful group at the beginning of the season to a veteran team that finished the season second in AHSAA Class 7A, Region 3 — also known as the “region of doom.” Bell said the hunger of younger players to improve their game helped lead the charge.

“We’ve gotten better every week on defense,” he wrote. “We’re still young on that side of the ball with only four senior starters, but they’re growing up. I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made in the secondary, and thought they played well Friday. Our front needs to continue to play well if we’re going to advance.”

It was that same youthfulness on defense that many prognosticators thought would hurt the Eagles over the course of the season, instead of leading to wins over region rivals Vestavia Hills, Spain Park and Tuscaloosa County.

“Our kids took it personally every time someone said we wouldn’t be able to compete,” Bell wrote.

The Eagles’ offense, however, is led by the veteran presence of quarterback Warren Shader and running backs Harold Shader and Daniel Salchert. Those veterans, Bell said, helped lay the foundation for this season’s success, and the Eagles want to win the first round matchup, not just host it.

“Well, the season’s not over and we want to finish strong, but to be where we are right now is a testament to our kids and their work ethic and belief in each other,” Bell wrote. “I think the biggest thing it says, though is that we’re progressing as a program. You have to go back to 2012 and 2013 where we really worked on laying a solid foundation. Those two classes of seniors have certainly contributed to where we are and it validates their efforts. I’m very proud of this year’s group of seniors and they certainly have earned the success they’ve had this fall.”

That said, the Eagles know they have a battle on their hands with the Jets.

“Coach Waldrop has done an outstanding job at James Clemens, and his guys are very talented and well-coached,” Bell wrote. “It will certainly take our best effort, but whoever wins it up front will win the ball game this week.”

The Eagles will kick off at 7 p.m. at Heardmont Park.