T.A. Dugger football in hands of former assistant

By Ivan Sanders

   When T.A. Dugger takes the field for the opening kickoff at Bristol on September 3rd to begin the chase of their third conference title in the last four years, an immediate change will be noticed by anyone who has followed the program in the last few years.
   A new head coach has taken the reins for the 2002 edition of the Junior Cyclones as John Oakley has stepped up from an assistant coaches role he has filled for the last 10 years to the top position. Oakley is a former TAD player and EHS graduate who knows the tradition of Cyclone football.
   "Coach Brian Culbert accepted an assistant principal's position, so the position was available," stated Oakley. "It's an honor to follow behind some great coaches who have been associated with this program, and my intentions are to keep up the tradition of T.A. Dugger football."
   Following coaches like Jim Crowe, Wayne Jenkins, Eddie Pless and Culbert will be a tough chore, but one that Oakley should have no problem with since he has been able to assist both Pless and Culbert in his 10 years at TAD.
   Different coaches approach the game with different philosophies, but Oakley will enter his initial season as head coach with a very basic approach to the game.
   "We want to make sure these kids learn the fundamentals of the game such as blocking, tackling, running the ball, and all the other techniques one needs as he enters his high school years," said Oakley.
   "Also, I want to make sure these kids have fun while they are out here practicing and in playing our games. If we can keep them excited, 90 percent of these kids will keep on playing after they leave here entering high school."
   Oakley makes no bones about it either, when talking about the winning tradition of the Junior Cyclone program.
   "We definitely are out here to win and keep the tradition going at T.A. Dugger," stated Oakley. "But, we are here as well to teach good sportsmanship in any situation."
   Stepping into a new role like head coach is nowhere near filling the role of an assistant coach for anyone. This will be true in Coach Oakley's case as well.
   Said Oakley: "I used to just show up for practice while Brian took care of all the administrative side of the job. Now, I am having to fulfill those duties as well as making sure these guys are doing what they need to do in their school work."
   "I also have to deal with people on the outside like parents and people interested in our program. So far, our parents have been super in their cooperation and helpfulness since I took over."
   Looking over the roster for this year, Oakley wasn't left an empty cupboard either as he is overloaded with athletic kids who have a very good shot at taking the conference title once again.
   The line this year will feature William Johnson, Josh Arnold, Zach Potter, Travis Bishop and Chase Turley. Manning the tight-end slot for the Jr. Cyclones will be Andrew Kennedy.
   The offensive backfield offers a smorgasbord of talented kids.
   "We have some quality offensive players that can get the job done," stated Oakley. "Preston Smith knows all the ins and outs of our offense and will take care of the QB slot."
   "Our backfield is very talented as the fullback duties will be handled by Josh Hutchins and little-known A.J. Burke, who should turn some heads. Austin Taylor and Brent Shaver will provide offensive power from the running back position."
   Oakley will have a time deciding who to throw the ball to as there will be a number of receivers that can haul in the mail from Smith.
   "Josh Guinn probably has the best hands as he caught a TD in a scrimmage against Happy Valley, but teams will not be able to overlook split end Drew Hyder or wide receiver Weston Isaacs either," quipped Oakley.
   Most of the same guys on offense will flip over to the defensive side of the ball as well, with two other tough nose players thrown in the mix.
   "Nick McNeal came out this year and is doing a good job at the running back and defensive back slots," said Oakley. "Trinity Allen is another name fans should be hearing a lot from at the linebacking slot."
   With talent abundant, the first-year head coach now has the task of making sure all that talent is utilized. Oakley will be looking to his assistants to make sure all the X's and O's are covered.
   Said Oakley: "Scott McIntosh, a former center for EHS in the early '90s, has been here since I have and will handle the line and defensive side of the ball. James Jacobs, who brings in a lot of enthusiasm, has exchanged his basketball clipboard for one with a football and will be coaching our defensive backs."
   Oakley added: "Our seventh-grade coaches are also doing an outstanding job, with Daniel Profitt taking care of the team's head coaching slot. Andy Curtis, Johnny Williams, Ryan Presnell and David Campbell add a lot of football experience as assistants as well."
   T.A. Dugger holds the distinction of being the smallest school in the conference, but Coach Oakley knows that it's not the numbers but the heart that counts.
   "We have the distinction of being the team that has handed Kingsport's John Sevier Middle School all five losses they have suffered in the last nine years of play."
   The Junior Cyclone program has definitely been placed in the hands of a man that is very capable of leading them this season and into the future. John Oakley has the knowledge and experience to keep the tradition of T.A. Dugger rich and strong for as long as he is at the program's helm.