At Huntington Beach High, the same guys continue to be the center of attention in training camp.
Following a season in which they went 3-7 overall, tied for third place in the Sunset League at 2-3 and missed the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs, the Oilers know this — they were young. The positive consequence is that leadership has been developed in time for Huntington Beach’s season opener against Canyon at El Modena High on Friday.
Going into last season, the Oilers were high on a pair of two-way players with good ball skills. Arick McLawyer and Jeremiah Flanagan went on to play key roles for Huntington Beach as juniors and earned first-team All-Sunset League honors.
What the Huntington Beach coaching staff noticed, others also did. Heading into their senior season, both McLawyer and Flanagan have received extensive college interest as defensive backs.
Oilers coach Brett Brown said that McLawyer, a first-team Daily Pilot Dream Team selection last year, received offers from San Jose State, Hawaii and UNLV in the offseason. He added that Flanagan got an offer from UTEP last week. Flanagan said that Colorado State, Oregon State, Washington State and USC have also shown interest.
I feel like me moving to strong safety this year allows me to be a little more physical on the defense and give us a more physical presence in the box ...
Add Sunset League co-Linebacker of the Year John Gosney to the discussion, and the Oilers have a group of impactful senior athletes around which they can build the team.
“We do have some leadership,” Brown said. “It’s been a huge breath of fresh air … to have guys that can take over in the weight room in the offseason and out here at practice. You can just see the energy and guys taking over.”
McLawyer will see his role change on both sides of the ball. He served as the team’s quarterback during Sunset League play as a junior, often making plays with his legs.
The explosive 6-foot McLawyer will move to running back, where the running plays will not come on his own terms.
“The thing that we’ve been stressing with him is, ‘You’re not going to score every time you touch the ball,’ ” Brown said of McLawyer, who threw for eight touchdowns, rushed for six touchdowns, caught two touchdowns and returned an interception for a touchdown in 2017. “He’s got that potential to, but he’s got to be OK with two-, three-, four-yard gains. Sooner or later, he is going to break one.
“He’s got to be patient. He’s got to find holes and not get frustrated when he gets stuffed or stopped for a minimal gain.”
On defense, McLawyer will move from free safety to strong safety. It is a change that he welcomes.
“I feel like me moving to strong safety this year allows me to be a little more physical on the defense and gives us a more physical presence in the box, which we kind of lacked last year,” McLawyer said. “I feel like with me being down there, we should be able to stop the run a lot more this year.”
Flanagan will remain the top deep threat at wide receiver. He had 468 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season.
Brown called the 6-4 Flanagan one of the best cornerbacks in Orange County.
“He’s long, he’s athletic, he can run,” Brown said. “He likes to play man [coverage]. He wants to be physical.
“For us, he’s a guy that we are counting on to hopefully take away some good receivers, or at least contain some good receivers.”
They can also count on Flanagan for some takeaways, as the ball-hawking defensive back had three interceptions last fall.
Jacob Hanlon was named the starting quarterback out of training camp last year. Brown said that Hanlon, a sophomore, transferred to Edison.
The Oilers feel confident that incoming junior Brady Gardner, who only threw three passes last season, will be their quarterback.
“We really like what he’s showing us so far,” Brown said of Gardner. “He’s pretty much gotten all the reps all spring and all summer. He’s come a long way. His learning curve had to get sped up, but he’s handled it really well.”
Huntington Beach held its own in passing leagues, finishing as runner-up to JSerra in its Surf City Passing Tournament.
Flanagan voiced confidence in both the team’s secondary and Gardner following the team’s passing league performance, saying, “JSerra was also a tough opponent for us, but we stayed in the game with them. I feel like if we can stay in the game with those teams, we can stay in the game against anyone.”
Defense figures to be the calling card if the Oilers are to find themselves in the win column more often in 2018. The coaching staff of the Oilers, who are in Division 6 this year, like the linebacker duo of Gosney and Christian Moore.
Gosney had a team-high 100 tackles (82 solo) last season, earning him first-team Dream Team honors. He had 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 22 quarterback hurries, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one blocked punt.
Moore, a junior who will also play at tight end, enjoys throwing his weight around, too.
“I love contact,” Moore said. “That’s my favorite thing about football is just hitting people. When I line up, I’m going to try to be the most physical player on the field.”
Huntington Beach Oilers
CIF Southern Section Division: 6
Coach: Brett Brown (third year)
Staff: Diego Segura (defensive coordinator), Greg Olquin (offensive line), Kai Ross (quarterbacks/running backs), Garrett Govaars (receivers), Josh Jordan (receivers), Ryan Formento (offensive line), Mikie Blackburn (tight ends), Dean Eddy (defensive backs), Harley Shoffner (linebackers), Alex Alagata (defensive line), Kurt Clemens (defensive line), Ian Dominelli (special teams coordinator), Dean Yoshiyama (defensive consultant)
2017 season: 3-7 overall, 2-3 in the Sunset League (shared third place), missed the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs
Offensive scheme: No-huddle, spread, pistol
Defensive scheme: 3-3, 4-2
Returning offensive starters: Nine
Returning defensive starters: Seven
Returning with honors: Sr. LB John Gosney; Sr. RB/SS Arick McLawyer; Sr. WR/CB Jeremiah Flanagan; Sr. RB/FS James Stevens; Jr. TE/LB Christian Moore; Sr. T/DE Samuel Williams
17 — vs. Canyon at El Modena High
24 — at Western
31 — vs. Long Beach Wilson
7 — vs. Irvine
14 — vs. Marina
21 — Bye
28 — at Newport Harbor*
5 — vs. Edison*
12 — vs. Fountain Valley*
19 — vs. Los Alamitos*
26 — vs. Corona del Mar* at Newport Harbor High
*denotes league game
All games 7 p.m.