New coach, new promise for Owen J. Roberts



One thing is for certain in 2015.

Owen J. Roberts won’t look anything like it did last season, or the past 18 seasons under longtime head coach Tom Barr.

New coach, new offense, new defense.

Will it yield better results than the 10-38 record OJR has posted in the past four seasons?

Time will tell.

But since the arrival of first-year head coach Rich Kolka from Muhlenberg, the OJR program may have found the rejuvenation it has sought since a Wildcat team led by star running back Ryan Brumfield captured a PAC-10 co-championship in 2010.

Five years without a championship feels like an eternity, but senior quarterback Mitch Bradford and senior tight end Conor Mitchell are seeing some promising signs early in training camp.

“I think everybody’s really into it this year,” Bradford said. “We have a lot of guys out that hadn’t played that are out for the team now. Everyone’s real excited about this year.”

“It’s not just Kolka, the whole coaching staff is always energetic, always ready to come to practice and they bring a new form of energy,” Mitchell said. “All the guys on the team are following in their lead.

“All of us are more focused this year, we’re not really wasting time out here. We’re always striving for that one goal – to get a championship – no matter what it takes. Everyone’s out here before practice getting work in and that’s a new thing around here. We’re excited.”

Kolka guided the Muhls to a 28-37 record in his tenure, which was highlighted by three seasons of six wins or more and a District 3-AAA second round appearance in 2013, before being hired by OJR in March.

Kolka, 37, played wide receiver at Albright from 1998-2000 and was named outstanding offensive back as a senior. He graduated from Suffern High School (N.Y.) in 1996 and now lives in the Owen J. Roberts School District.

His tenure at OJR, has only grown more positive ever since he touted his players’ commitment to the weight room in his first few weeks at the helm.

“These players are very eager to learn,” Kolka said. “They’re dedicated to what we want to do and they give it their all. So whatever they achieved this year, they earned.”

Stack it Up 

The changes were evident at first glance … err, listen.

Music blasted from the speakers surrounding OJR’s practice field as players stayed upbeat (a couple of them perfecting ‘The Whip’ during water breaks) during the morning practice session that had temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.

All of that was overshadowed by a new-look defense.

Gone are the days of the 3-4. OJR, under the defensive tutelage of Shippensburg alum and girls basketball coach Jeremy Mellon, will employ a 3-3 stack (3-3-5) look this season, a move that Bradford and Mitchell are both in favor of.

“The 3-3 stack is a great look for us, lets us fly around,” Mitchell said. “The focus is to come to the ball and make our tackles.”

Getting Offensive 

The morning session on Tuesday didn’t feature the new-look offense that OJR will run this season. As previously reported in March, Kolka will bring the spread offense to OJR, a drastic change of the ground-and-pound offense the OJR faithful have seen in recent years.

“Mitch (Bradford) has taken to it pretty well,” Kolka said. “The linemen have done a nice job picking up the zone rules – we’re a zone-scheme team. They’ve done a nice job with the inside-zone, outside-zone and identifying different fronts. They’re getting to where they need to be. We’re not ready yet by any means but they’re doing a nice job of picking up most everything that we’ve put in.”

Not enough for you? 

Not enough content about Owen J. Roberts? Need not to worry. Owen J. Roberts’ new offense and new look will be outlined in greater detail in the annual Mercury Football Preview that will be released September 2nd. The special section will also feature Players to Watch for each team, recent records, statistical leaders from last season and much, much more. Sate your appetite for local high school sports coverage until then at our new home for scholastic sports, PA Prep Live.








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