By Nate Tbompson
EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – Coaching continuity at the high school level is often a rare thing.
But it’s been the norm for a long time at Oakridge, to the great benefit of the kids coming through the football program.
Head coach Cary Harger is in his 10th season as head coach for the Eagles, and served as an assistant under legendary former coach Jack Schugars for 16 years prior to that.
Harger’s assistants are also masters of longevity. Tim Parker, Nate Danicek and Dave Randall each served under Schugars as well, and just kept going when their friend Harger took over.
“Tim Parker and I were friends in high school,” Harger said. “Then you have Dave Randall and Tom VanHeest. It’s pretty amazing how many years we’ve got in, and almost all at one school.”
That family type of situation has come full circle for the Oakridge program, because several of the coaches have sons who have suited up for the Eagles over the years.
The latest example is Coach Danicek’s son, senior Jacob Danicek, who is like a multi-purpose Swiss Army Knife on the offensive side of the ball.
In the Eagles’ spread offense, he’s easily their best wide receiver, running precise routes and showing outstanding speed after the catch.
When the Eagles go strictly ground-and-pound, like they did in the second half of last week’s 34-13 victory at Ravenna, Danicek can be a nice compliment to featured back Corey Vanderputte in the T-formation.
Against the Bulldogs, Danicek had a receiving touchdown and a rushing score, helping Oakridge improve to 4-1 on the season. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Braedyn Beattie in the second quarter, then added a three-yard TD run.
He does a little bit of everything. On the season he has 57 rushes for 177 yards and two touchdowns, along with six catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns. On defense he has 12 solo tackles and six assists for a total of 18 tackles. He also has one interception which turned into a 43-yard pick-six.
Danicek and the rest of the Eagles are primed for Friday’s final regular season games against 4-1 Whitehall, in what’s likely to be a battle for second place in the West Michigan Conference.
“I like to be in on everything,” Danicek said. “I feel like the more I’m out there, I’m able to control the game more and I’m able to make a bigger impact to the game.”
Harger certainly appreciates having an all-purpose skill player around.
“He’s able to play wideout, we’ve had him at slot, he’s run the ball,” Harger said. “It’s very valuable to have a kid like that. It’s awesome.”
Danicek said he’s thoroughly enjoyed being coached by his father the last couple years, and his dad has had a hand in shaping his son’s success both on and off the field.
As offensive coordinator, Nate Danicek has been able to dial up plays to showcase his son’s strengths and also keep the Eagles soaring. Despite their early dud against undefeated Montague, when they were dealt a 42-6 loss, Oakridge has scored an average of 44 points in its four wins.
Off the field, Danicek said his dad has helped instill a work ethic that has helped elevate his skills on the field. His dad wouldn’t let him play the sport until he was in sixth grade, however, because he didn’t want him to get injured at a young age.
“More than anything, he’s really just pushed me to be the best I can be,” Danicek said, who stands 6-foot and weighs 165 pounds. “He’s helped me a lot at home, like if I have any questions on the game plan or anything that’s going on. And it’s nice to have the weight room to myself at pretty much any time.”
The bag game against Montague did raise some questions about the Eagles, Danicek admitted, but he feels the team has refocused and is primed to make a postseason run when the playoffs begin next week.
A year ago, Oakridge advanced to the Division 5 district finals before falling in frigid conditions to a high-scoring Kingsley squad, 51-34.
“We had some injuries and some people quit, and we had a lot people working into different positions,” Danicek said. “After Montague, we’ve really come together and bonded a lot closer. We’re better as one unit.”