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Richard Sayer/Eight&322

Promising freshman Trenton Grooms (26) has his eye on a Tiger.

Oil City: Looking back, looking ahead

Looking Back

Ethen Knox finished his three-year career with a District 10 record 7,870 yards rushing on 935 carries, good for eighth place in state history. He scored 92 touchdowns in 28 games, accumulating 8,436 all-purpose yards. He also made 199 tackles and seven interceptions on defense.

But Knox wasn’t the only star on a 7-4 team, which was runnerup to Meadville in region play and avenged a regular season loss to North East in the District 10 3A playoffs before bowing out to Sharon, 39-16 (the Oilers were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, though.)

The Oilers graduated eight seniors, including linebacker Kevin Pearsall and tackle Henry Milford, who were three-year starters. Jon Hargenrader, Justen Dunkle and Hayden Wilson contributed mightily, especially on defense. Other seniors were Jaden Smally and Markeem Boles.

Pearsall was thrown to the wolves as a freshman when potential all-everything Brayden Crocker went down, as it turned out, for good. He ended up with 264 tackles and a school record 38 tackles for loss. He was a good punter, too, averaging 36-plus, but was around 37, 38 yards through most of the season.

Milford was a three-time all-region pick, heading an offensive line that racked up 9,707 yards rushing in 29 games, including a school record 422.4 per in 2022.

The Oilers got off to a strong start, trouncing Warren and Corry, before sagging in the middle, first losing to North East, without Knox who was injured. Knox returned the next game when the Oilers struggled in the first half but took care of Franklin and then routed Northwestern. Then came a disappointing 32-8 loss at Meadville and a mystifying 49-0 home defeat to Hollidaysburg.

The Oilers began looking like their old selves in a romp over Conneaut. Titusville thought they had a chance against the Oilers; the Rockets are still thinking. So is North East, which thought the Oilers not having Knox the first time around made no difference. It did.

Looking Ahead

Knox is a huge loss. So are Pearsall and Milford – and the others. But the cupboard is not bare. The Oilers return a half-dozen or so regulars, including four/fifths of their offensive line where Tanner Kighlinger will be looking forward to making all-region a third straight time.

The Oilers, with more trips to the weight room, look again to be big and beefy with people like Nico Blauser (6-3, 265), A.J. Bucholz (6-1, 300), Lenny Liebold (6-1, 280), Tim Walentoski (5-9, 248), Cam Reagle (6-3, 286) and Arik Kutchravy (5-11, 325).

Back at edge/linebacker are junior Ben Garland, soph Brayden Buzard and freshman Trenton Grooms. Junior Noah Sanchez started the first game at linebacker, but then was injured and out for the season. He was also Knox’s understudy at tailback.

Sophomore quarterback Cole Findlay had his moments in 2023, and basically played well at 5-10, 144, especially at cornerback where he and Gavin Stephens teamed for six INTS and 15 passes defended. DB Hank Lockhart also made several tackles and handled the kicking – including the placekicking.

Lockhart did well – so well that maybe Oil City won’t go for two after touchdowns all the time in 2024. And there will be a lot of “all the times.”

Five juniors -- Kightlinger, Walentoski, Bucholz, Stephens and Garland -- were named second team All-Region.

 

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Cole Findlay unleashes a spiral against Meadville.

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2022 Oil City schedule
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