By GREG MENGELT
Jeffersonville’s football team is coming off its most successful season since 2007 and its highest win total under third-year coach Lonnie Oldham.
Oldham took over a floundering program and went 5-5 in his first year before last year’s 8-4 season that was closed out by a 50-29 loss to Castle in the Class 5A Sectional 8 championship game.
Another strong summer should have the Red Devils prepared to take another step in 2013.
“Our summer has been really productive,” Oldham said of the 2013 Devils. “I’d give our summer an A, A-plus. I feel we’re a little further along than last year because our kids have been in the system three years. It’s exciting to be able to move some kids around and have some experience back.”
With its overall team speed, Jeff’s offense averaged 46 points per game a year ago, which was ninth-best in Indiana. Oldham said he’s seen his team’s speed improve over the past few months.
“[Summer training] has been a lot of the same as last year,” Oldham said. “But I think we’re faster. Hopefully, our tempo on offense will be even faster.”
In order to produce points like a year ago, Oldham will have to find a replacement for quarterback Tyler Fridley, who graduated after finishing as one of the state’s top passers a year ago.
For now, sophomore Jamal Britt is the leading candidate to be next in line, but freshman Cameron Northern has been pushing him for the job. Northern missed much of the summer workouts while playing baseball.
The quarterback competition Oldham said, “has been pretty good. Jamal’s had a good summer, and hopefully [Northern] can learn some stuff and be ready to get some snaps by game three or four. [Northern is] not a typical freshman.”
Oldham said he has typically had about 45-55 varsity-level players at summer workouts, and the quality has outweighed the quantity.
“I’d say our varsity roster, when all is said and done, will be about 60 players,” Oldham said. “They enjoy coming to practice and going to work. They like competing against each other. They’re competitive in practice. It’s been fun.”
The Devils had several scrimmages throughout the summer. They faced Charlestown twice, impressing Pirate coach Jason Hawkins with their size and speed. They also took on state powerhouses Center Grove, Castle and Warren Central among others.
“We faced a lot of quality opponents in scrimmages,” Oldham said. “We were competitive with almost all of them, except Warren Central. That was our first scrimmage [of the summer] and we weren’t ready.”
Official practice will begin Monday for Jeff and every other varsity program in Indiana.
2013 JEFFERSONVILLE RED DEVILS
• DEPARTURES: QB Tyler Fridley, WR Jacquari Chandler, WR Ricky Embry, DB Tyler Kahl, LB Derek Hughes, OL Jay Brown, OL Sherman Phillips.
• KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: TE/DE Dionte Allen (Sr.), RB Austin Hines (Sr.), WR/S Damin Smith (Sr.), TE/DE Dalton Adkins (Sr.), OT Kevin Furtick (Sr.), OT/DT DeAdam Hall (Jr.), OG Tymon Brown (Sr.), OG Aaron Smith (Jr.), DB Guy Oliver (Jr.), DB Tony Croom (Sr.), LB Aamil Haleem (Sr.), LB David Morales (Sr.), DT Joseph Simmons (Sr.), PK Fhauwu Momoh (Jr.).
• KEY VARSITY NEWCOMERS: WR Isaiah Blanton (So.), QB Jamal Britt (So.), SS Jordan Muirhead (Jr.), WR/DB Isaiah Reeves (Sr.), WR Brandon Coleman (So.), QB Cam Northern (Fr.), C Logan Sheers (Jr.), LB Isaiah Mack (Jr.).
• 2012 RECAP: Jeffersonville had its most successful campaign since its sectional championship year of 2007. The Red Devils went 8-4, but they were actually 9-3 on the field (giving up a forfeit to Madison for using an ineligible player). They beat rival New Albany twice, including in the first round of Class 5A Sectional 8. After a sectional semifinal win over Evansville North, the Red Devils fell to Castle 50-29 — a game in which Jeff was competitive well into the second half — in the sectional championship game.
• 2013 EXPECTATIONS: Jeff will certainly be one of Southern Indiana’s best teams. There’s little doubt of that. What it gets from its quarterback situation is what could be the difference. With Fridley gone, Jeff will be young under center. If Britt or Northern can get the job done, Jeff could end Columbus East’s decade-long hold on the Hoosier Hills Conference title and be competitive in the new Class 6A Sectional 8 field, which includes New Albany, Center Grove and Columbus North.