Oak Park opens practice with sights set on OAA White Title
Oak Park – The first day of football practice never gets old or routine for Oak Park coach Greg Carter.
“It’s always a great day, no matter what,” he said. “No matter where you are or what team you have, the first day you get going is when optimism is at its highest. You feel it in the air. If you really love the game, the feeling is almost intoxicating. Nothing is as hopeful and positive than your first day out on the field, knowing Friday Night Lights are just around the corner.”
Carter is entering his sixth year at the helm of the Knights. He arrived in Oak Park in 2011 after highly successful stays at Detroit St. Martin De Porres (four state titles) and Inkster (two trips to the state finals). His Oak Park teams have qualified for the Division 2 state playoffs the past four seasons.
Oak Park went 5-5 in 2015 losing to Southfield in a district opener. Eleven starters return, including a pair of 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman and Division I-college recruits at the point of attack in junior Marquan McCall and senior Ja’Raymond Hall (Michigan commit). They’ll be protecting a potential star in sophomore quarterback Dwan Mathis and clearing the way for a number of fine running backs headlined by senior captain Dylan Stackhouse, a bruising between-the-tackles ball carrier, and a more shifty teammates such as Naje Trinity and Casual Goldsmith.
“We have a phenomenal young talent at quarterback in Mathis and a ton of depth at the running back position,” Carter said.
Mathis (6-5, 215) is a dual threat quarterback. He’s timed at 4.43 in the 40-yard dash and possesses a strong arm. He was at Belleville last season before transferring late in 2015 and hasn’t taken a varsity snap, yet holds multiple Division I scholarship offers (Kentucky, Cincinnati, Iowa St, Akron).
“I just work hard, I do what my coaches tell me to do and follow the lead of the upperclassmen that have been in this program for a while,” said Mathis of his adaption process. “I want to learn as much as I can about the game of football, I want to become a quarterback who is as smart as he is athletic.”
The Knights run for a league title in the Oakland Activities Association White Division this fall will go through defending champion Farmington Hills Harrison (7-3). Traditional border-rival Southfield moved to the Red Division following the merger with Southfield-Lathrup (now Southfield A&T). Carter hasn’t forgotten about his foes in Southfield though. The teams will crossover in week nine.
“Those fellas aren’t getting away from us that easy,” he joked.
The kind of team he has in 2016, one he views as full of promise, has him smiling quite a bit lately.
“I honestly feel the sky’s the limit with this group,” Carter said. “We have the capability to do a lot of damage, really make a mark.”