By BRIAN LESTER
Inside a jubilant locker room Saturday afternoon in Canton, University of Findlay head football coach Rob Keys talked to his team about how proud he was about the season his Oilers had just completed.
UF had just finished off a 7-3 season with a 26-7 win over Walsh at Fawcett Stadium.
And and while the hard work the Oilers put into the 2012 campaign didn’t translate into a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship or an NCAA Division II playoff berth, they have no reason to hang their heads.
Keys had a good reason to be proud of his team and the program as a whole.
The Oilers are on the rise. They finished tied for second place in the GLIAC, one of the toughest conferences in the nation, and won one more game than they did a year ago while trimming two losses off of their 6-5 record in 2011.
It’s a sign of progress when you consider UF was 1-10 in 2010.
Second place in the GLIAC? Yeah, that was a pipe dream not too long ago.
The eight seniors who helped get this program on the right track again all deserve a lot of credit for sticking it out and buying into what Keys and his coaching staff was selling.
And as senior running back Monterae Williams told me, the torch has now been passed on to the younger players. It’s up to them to keep it burning and keep the program rolling in the right direction.
You have to believe they will do just that. After all, they know they are a little closer now to being a championship program, and they know that with a little more work in the offseason and a little more improvement, they will get to where they want to be.
What was impressive about this UF team was that it never lost more two or more games in a row. It always bounced back after a loss, which isn’t easy for any team to do.
The Oilers also always took the field believing they were good enough to win football games, and most of the time, that confidence translated into victory, including once over nationally ranked Saginaw Valley State on the road.
Sure, it would have been great to see UF win a conference title this season. It would have been a thrill to watch this team get to the D-II playoffs for the first time in school history.
But hey, building a championship program takes time.
Yet, if the Oilers continue to go forward, it won’t be long before Keys is talking to his team in the locker room at the end of the regular season about how proud he is of it for winning a conference title and securing a trip to the playoffs.
All GLIAC: First Team: Running Back Monterae Williams. Second Team: Center Scott Dearwester, defensive tackle Richard Sumlin, defensive back Ray Ballard, linebacker Brandon Butler and wide receiver Seth White. Honorable Mention: Quarterback Clay Belton, offensive linemen Tyler Johns and Justin Music, tight end Jaryd Brown, defensive back Jamon McClain and defensive end Josh Kloepfer, a former standout at Vanlue.
Follow me on Twitter @BLester1993 or send me an email at brianlester@thecouriercom.