By Andrew Johnson

SHELBY – When your football team has lost 29 straight games, it would be very easy to get discouraged, and maybe even toss in the towel.

But Shelby senior quarterback/free safety Kristian Oberlin says he won’t allow any negative thoughts to creep into his mind.

That must be tough to do at times. In his two seasons as the starting quarterback, the Tigers have gone 0-14, and have been outscored 670-89.

Two games last season were forfeits, because Shelby didn’t have enough healthy players to take the field.

So how does Oberlin stay optimistic, week after week, when his team loses so many games, usually by very big margins?

“It’s hard to say,” Oberlin said. “I never really let myself get down, because if I do, then the team will think the same way.

“In order to keep playing, I have to keep my head up.”

Shelby quarterback/defensive back Kristian Oberlin.

The numbers show how Oberlin has continued to battle on both sides of the ball. He has thrown for more than 500 yards and leads his team in tackles.

Now he would love it if the Tigers could get a victory or two as he wraps up his high school career. That certainly seems possible, since Shelby will play 1-6 Mason County Central on Friday, before closing the season against Hesperia, which has yet to win a game.

“That would be a huge step,” Oberlin said about the possibility of getting a win. “It would be a step up from the last two seasons, and would show the community that we’re moving forward and bringing Shelby football back to what it was.”

It wasn’t so long ago that Shelby had a very good team. The Tigers advanced to the Division 6 state semifinals in both in 2012 and 2013, before their fortunes turned for the worse and the losses started piling up.

Both Oberlin and his head coach, Lorenzo Rodriquez, admit that the current varsity players occasionally mention that happy history.

“We’re always referencing that in some way or another,” said Rodriquez about the 2012 and 2013 teams, which he coached. “We’ve proven that we can get there and be at that level.”

Oberlin says he recalls very little about those successful teams, which took the field when he was in middle school, and had limited interest in varsity sports.

Oberlin rolls out during Shelby’s game against Hart earlier this season. Photo/Stephanie Clark

“I don’t remember much of it,” said Oberlin. “But I do remember some parts, and we talk about it every now and then. But we don’t live too much in the past. We look forward and keep it moving.”

The 6-0, 175-pound quarterback has thrown for 503 yards and three of the six Tiger touchdowns this season.

While those numbers may not catch much attention, Oberlin takes the role of quarterback seriously, particularly when it comes to leadership.

“I get to lead my team,” he said. “If anything goes wrong, I can take the blame no matter what. I have to keep my head up, and I like having the pressure on me.”

Oberlin really stands out on defense, where he has a team-high 75 tackles at the free safety position. He registered had 16 tackles against archrival Hart earlier this season, 16 tackles and an interception in the season opener against Grant, and had 15 stops against Ravenna.

Rodriquez said the key to Oberlin’s success on defense is pure hustle.

“We call him Mr. Hustle,” the coach said. “I’ve been amazed when a punt returner escapes, and he’ll make the tackle 30 yards downfield. Everything he does is very intelligent, and he’s good with schemes and directing traffic.”

Oberlin, who has played football since the first grade, plans to major in marine biology when he leaves for a yet-to-be-determined college.

But before he finishes up his high school football career, he’s hoping to help his fellow seniors finally taste victory.

“It would make me feel a lot better knowing I got a win or two in my varsity career,” he said. “I’m sure it would for the rest of the seniors, as well.”