New head coach talks about his vision for Oxford football program
By Steven Hoffman
On April 14, the night that Mike Means confidently strode to the podium at Oxford Area High School and introduced himself to the Oxford community, there were 142 days until the first game of the 2015 football season.
Means mentioned the season opener against Solanco several times during his 60-minute presentation, but his focus wasn’t on what happens during four quarters of a Friday night game that is still more than four months away. His focus, instead, is on right now. What can he, as the coach, be doing right now to create the right culture for the players? What should the players be doing right now to prepare themselves for training camp in August and the games in September and October?
“Winning is the culmination of reaching a lot of other goals,” Means said. “Wins and losses are at the end of the process.”
The coach explained that his priority will always be to help the players become good young men who contribute to the community and are of the highest character.
“If guys are learning the lessons that will set them up for success, if guys are playing the right way, then the wins will come,” Means said. “It’s faith, family, school, and Oxford football. At Oxford, we’re going to do it the right way. We’re going to win the right way. This town is ready for an era of consistent success. I came here to build a program that will have consistent success.”
Means comes to Oxford from Bohemia Manor High School, where he served as an offensive coordinator for the last seven seasons. Bohemia Manor won the conference championship twice in a four-year period, and is an example of a football program that is consistently competitive—that’s precisely the kind of program that Means is looking to bring to Oxford.
“I’ve known this community for a long time,” Means said. “It’s definitely my kind of community—it’s a blue collar community, and it’s ready for a winner.”
Means sees many similarities between Oxford and the Lancaster County town where he grew up and played football and basketball at Cocalico High School. He was a quarterback on a team that went 9-1, 9-1, and 7-3 in his last three seasons. After high school, he opted to study at Shippensburg University and played basketball at the collegiate level. He couldn’t wait to get back into football when he started coaching. Now, he’s excited to be fully involved in his first head-coaching opportunity.
Means was professional and prepared at his introduction to the Oxford community. A PowerPoint presentation spelled out exactly what he expects of his players as the new staff goes about the business of rebuilding the Oxford football program. According to Means, hard work and discipline should be the foundation that everything is built on.
Means’ presentation even included a Hornet-related motivational acronym, STING, that summarizes how the team should approach its job: Sacrifice, Toughness, Iron, Now, and Guts. The “sacrifice” requires each player to put the needs of the team first. The “toughness” refers to the physical and mental preparation necessary to succeed. The “iron” refers to the off-season workouts that will result in wins in September and October. The “now” refers to what the players are doing right now to get better. The “guts” refers to the quality that football players need to have inside them so that they can win in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.
Means talked about how he wants the players to become a band of brothers in the weight room. Some of the football players are already weeks into a new training program, working out in the weight room from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while the current eighth-graders are coming in from 4:15 to 4:50 p.m. each of those days to learn how to lift.
Josh Schneider, who serves as Oxford’s strength and conditioning coach, said he has been impressed by the early results players like Josh Freese, Wes Ogino, Conner Hilaman, Mykhial Brown, and Michael Williams, who have taken Means’ plans to heart.
“We’re just getting a lot stronger. Everybody is buying in,” said Schneider, who will also assist with coaching the wide receivers and outside linebackers. Schneider added that many of Oxford’s players are already repping the weight that they maxed out at during the last season.
While Oxford is losing the contributions of several solid senior players, as well as Ryan Hubley, one of the all-time greats in the history of the program, there are some talented players coming back.
Means said that he will be bringing the triple-option offense to Oxford, and talented quarterback Danny Green, who set several school records for passing in 2014, will be a good leader for the new offense.
“The quarterback is the maestro of this offense,” Means said. “I think any kind of skill position players can fit into this offense. We need linemen who are athletic and can move.”
The players will start learning the new system and doing some work with their position coaches in May, followed by a more robust lifting program—what Means calls the Fourth Quarter Program—from June through August.
Some of the players will most likely take part in a seven-on-seven tournament in June.
“I’m not interested in whether we win that tournament,” Means explained. “That’s just about getting reps and getting the new passing game installed.”
In early August, the players can take part in a Salisbury Team Camp, which will be the most focused team-building experience of the off-season. Players will participate in six full practices while at this camp, and will receive college-level instruction. There’s a short break after this camp before the pre-season practices get underway.
The new coach emphasized that the off-season work is vital to what will happen on the football field in the fall.
“We need everybody in the program to buy in to this,” Means said.
That includes the parents of the players and, indeed, the entire Oxford community. As part of the effort to make the players contributors to their community, Means wants the football team to be more visible and active in the Oxford area.
Means said that he has assembled a coaching staff that shares his vision for Oxford’s football program.
“I found some fantastic coaches,” Means said. “The staff that I put together is very young, hungry, and determined to put together a winner. We’re going to make [young men] better players.”
Means’ enthusiasm shined through during his presentation, which he concluded with the mantra, “Our team, our town, our time.”
Bob Liberato, the president of the Oxford Football Boosters, was part of the search committee that brought the new coach to Oxford.
“He presented himself really well,” Liberato said. “We wanted a guy who could build a program. You could tell that he put a lot of thought into his plan. He brings a lot of energy. He has a lot of enthusiasm. People want to follow him.”
Oxford officials are excited about what Means’ arrival could mean for the future of the football program.
“We believe that Coach Means will bring a very competitive and disciplined student-athlete to the playing field and the classroom,” said Oxford athletic director Michael Price. “We are very excited for the future of the program.”
High school principal Christopher Dormer said that during the interview process Means was the candidate whose views most closely aligned with what Price is trying to do with the athletic program, what Dormer himself is trying to do at the high school, and what superintendent David Woods wants to establish throughout the school district. They all want to establish a positive culture with a strong sense of community where young men and women can become more productive contributors to their communities.
“Tonight,” Dormer said, “marks the next chapter in a great legacy of Oxford football.”
Means said that he already feels like he’s becoming a part of the Oxford community.
“I loved my time at Bohemia Manor, but I am thrilled to be here,” he said. “I am thrilled about being involved with Pennsylvania football again. This community has welcomed me with open arms. My family and I feel blessed to have this opportunity.”