Stein Cast in Roles as Defending State Champ
WHEELING — After winning a state football championship, what do you do for an encore?
That is the question at hand for Kurt Stein.
The Wheeling Central product guided Oakdale High School to the Maryland Class AA state title last fall. Maryland has four football classifications.
The state championship game — a 35-7 rout of Glenelg — capped an impressive post-season run. In the state semifinals, Stein’s charges defeated three-time reigning state champion Damascus, ending the nation’s longest winning streak at 53.
That was last year. Now, Stein must replace 26 seniors from his unbeaten title squad with just four returning starters.
“We know we now have the targets on our back. We are OK with that,” Stein said. “We were a very senior-oriented team last year. We started in January with getting our players up to speed. We have four returning starters back to carry the torch. Fortunately, one of those is a very talented quarterback.
“Right now they are still learning assignments and getting our schemes down. They are making mistakes but making progress. Our numbers are down somewhat. We have 38 players on varsity and 41 on jayvee. Four sophomores are dressing varsity.”
All is not gloom and doom, however, for the reigning state champions. Stein sees several positives with the 2019 Bears.
“We have some new talented guys. I think we are an athletic team and have players who move well,” Stein said. “It is a hungry bunch. We have guys who had to wait for their turn.
“We have guys who like to play and are itching at the chance to make their mark. I believe this group will rise to the occasion.”
The Bears launch their campaign Sept. 6 vs. Wild Lake.
“It will be a tough opener with all the new kids we have. They went 6-4 last year and have a new head coach,” Stein said.
Should Oakdale make a post-season run, it will be navigating through a new playoff format.
“The state of Maryland has made a major change in football scheduling. We used to play 10 regular-season games then four playoff games,” Stein noted. “We will now play nine regular-season games with five playoff rounds. Eight teams will now make the playoffs in each region instead of four.
“The teams will be re-seeded after the regional. This will be good for us. The theory is the best two teams will not meet in the regional like last year.”
Extended and high-level success often times yield scheduling problems. Steubenville, Shadyside and Wheeling Central have found that to be the case locally. Oakdale is now experiencing some of the same.
“It is getting tougher and tougher for us to put our football schedule together each year,” Stein said.
“We have been really strong the past five seasons and now many teams are shying away from playing us.”
To prepare for the upcoming campaign, Stein is putting his Bears through two scrimmages, one coming against the defending Maryland Class 4A champions.
The Wheeling Central product was hired in 2010 as Oakdale’s head football coach. It was a first-year school and a consolidation of Linganore, Thomas Johnson and Urbana high schools. The school is located about 45 minutes from Washington D.C. and houses some 1,200 students in grades 9-12.
That initial football season was spent playing junior varsity teams as Oakdale only brought in freshman and sophomore students. The Bears followed that by going 0-10 and 2-8 in their first two varsity campaigns.
“Winning a state championship at Oakdale was always my goal from Day 1 as well as through the early tough times. It’s been a heck-of-a-ride,” Stein said. “The state championship was always a goal. The program got better every year.”
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Bubba Kapral can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org