The Oxford High School football team lost three key players from last year’s squad to graduation, including its lone all state player, tailback Nick Donofrio, Oxford's all time leading rusher.
But the Wolverines, who were 5-5 last season, return 12 starters, six on both offense and defense, and they're hoping experience will help them through a tough schedule in the SouthWest Conference.
Under fifth-year head coach Joe Stochmal, the team plans to run a mix of offensive schemes that combine running behind senior tailback and captain Chris Hovan, a two-year starter, and passing from senior captain and quarterback Alex Miller, a three-year starter. Miller will look to get the ball in the hands of last year’s all-SouthWest Conference wide receiver Jordan Biagioni, wide receiver Justin Lasto and senior tight end Brian Spicer; Lasto and Spicer both have significant on-field experience for the Wolverines.
The offensive and defensive lines will be led by senior tri-captain Matt Hanna, a 6-foot, four-inch, 247-pound veteran, and Joe Carbonaro, a 6-foot, one-inch, 242-pounder who made second-team all conference last year.
And Anthony Paternoster, a linebacker and the team’s leading tackler last season, will anchor Oxford’s defense. Paternoster made honorable mention all conference last year, as did Alex Miller.
The Wolverines open action at home today, Saturday, Sept. 17, at noon against Masuk of Monroe, last year’s defending state champion and the team widely considered to be the best in the state.
Stochmal said the team opens up with five extremely difficult games.
“If we can get through those games staying healthy, I think we will do well,” he said, adding that the team wants to improve upon last season’s record.
The team’s leaders say the Wolverines have a hardworking squad.
“As long as we keep up that hard work, we will be OK,” Hovan said.
Miller said the team needs to have confidence in itself to succeed.
“I don’t think anyone has any faith in us against Masuk, but we don’t need anyone else to believe in us as long as we believe in us,” he said. “We need to go out and play every play like it’s our last, no regrets.”