The Oaks Christian Lions football team defeated Calvary Chapel of Santa Ana, 42-0, in a game played on the road last Saturday night. It was the season opener for both.
The Lions went ahead, 35-0, in the first half, giving everyone on the roster a chance to play.
"We had an opportunity to play everybody," said OCHS head coach Bill Redell.
It also meant that the Lions got stellar performances from their veteran quarterback and running back, senior Joey Halzle and junior Aaron Ware, respectively, who Redell said are providing leadership and stewardship for three freshmen skill players who already had an impact in the season’s inaugural game.
Halzle has taken Jimmy Claussen, a freshmen quarterback, under his wing, and Ware has similarly done the same with Mark Tyler and Marshall Jones, both freshmen running backs.
Ware scored two touchdowns on runs in the opening victory and Halzle passed for two touchdowns. Claussen passed for one TD, a 54-yard pass on his second attempt, and Tyler ran for another.
Mark Richardson had six receptions, and Joe Giuliani had an interception and scored one touchdown.
"Overall, I thought the kids played well and I was particularly pleased with the backup guys. They got to play a whole lot and they played well," said Redell.
In the opener, Halzle completed 7 of 11 passes for 89 yards and Claussen was 4 for 8 for 94 yards.
"We wanted to throw the ball a lot in the first half, and we did," said Redell. "We probably threw it 15 or 16 times in the first half, and then we ended up running the ball all but two or three times in the second half."
If anyone was disappointed, it wasn’t the Lions’ substitutes, said the head coach.
"Quite frankly, probably some of the starters feel like they didn’t play enough, which is probably true," said Redell.
Redell praised Halzle and Ware for the leadership they’ve provided early this season.
"They’re really very encouraging to the younger players," said Redell, referring to Halzle and Ware. "That’s the real positive that I see. They’re taking a lot of pride in the performance of the younger players."
The Lions made it to the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) semifinals each of the past two years— which were the first two years the Lions played a varsity schedule—and Redell said his players want to go further this year.
"Our kids expect to win," he said. "So there’s a high standard that’s set and we expect a high standard. It’s good to go into a game expecting that you’re going to win because most of the time what you expect is what you’re going to end up with."
Oaks Christian is ranked first in the Southern Section’s Division XI and the coach noted that opponents would be focusing keenly on the Lions.
"We also realize that we’re going to have to play hard," said Redell. "Everybody’s going to be shooting for us, we’re the No. 1 ranked team. We think Oak Park’s very good, Nordhoff’s very good and Fillmore beat L.A. Baptist.
"So it’s going to be a tough league," he said regarding the Tri-Valley League. "And we recognize that, so we’re going to take it one game at a time—though it’s hard to keep 14, 15 and 16-year-olds from looking too far ahead."
Redell said the Lions have already surpassed any expectations he might have had when he was hired before the school was officially opened in the fall of 2000.
"I was hoping we got 17 guys out for football the first year and we ended up with 40-something," said Redell.
Instead of merely fielding a team, the Lions have excelled. They went 22-3-1 in the first two years as a varsity in 2001 and ’02 and appear ready to add to that mark.
In the second week of the season—tomorrow—the Lions have their home opener against Village Christian, which enters the game with an identical 1-0 record.