OAHS honors nine student-athletes who will be playing at the collegiate level
By Steven Hoffman
If the nine student-athletes honored by Oxford Area High School (OAHS) on May 24 share a common trait—beyond the fact that they are all talented athletes who will graduate from Oxford this Friday—it's that they are all hard-working leaders on the sports field and in the classroom.
All that hard work paid off as seniors Madeline Williams, John Martelli, Julian Nadachowski, Brandon Holz, Brandon DeShields, Phillip Hurtt, Jared Tweed, Connor McMurrough, and Jake Giles signed letters of intent to play their sports at the collegiate level.
Williams, a standout on the girls' basketball team, is heading to Washington College. She was a leader on a team that improved greatly over the last four years. The basketball team earned just five wins four years ago, when Williams was a freshman, but within two years the team won the American Division and qualified for districts for the first time in a decade. It was a big step forward for the program. The Oxford squad made two appearances in the Ches-Mont League Final Four during Williams' time on the team.
For her part, Williams was a team MVP, served as team captain, and earned All-Area Honorable Mention during her time at Oxford. As she became one of the team's leaders, she set an example for other players to follow.
Williams expressed her gratitude to her teammates for all their hard work, and to her parents for all their support along the way.
Martinelli, who will be heading to Rosemont College, plans to pursue a career in medicine. He said that he really enjoyed his time at OAHS.
He was a four-year varsity player on Oxford's lacrosse team, earning the team MVP Award and picking up an All-Ches-Mont League selection along the way. The lacrosse program is young, and Martinelli said that he was proud of the way the players supported each other and stuck together during difficult times.
Martinelli was also very involved in school activities, ranging from the National Honor Society to the Interact Club to the Allied Health Program.
Giles, who will next play basketball for Neumann University, was a top scorer for the Hornets, as well as being a team leader. He was a center in high school, but will most likely play guard at the collegiate level.
Giles was part of a core group of players on the Hornets' team that provided leadership and consistency during a time when the squad had three coaches in four years. Giles said that the new system that was installed during his senior season worked very well, and the team spent a lot more time studying film and expanding the playbook—which produced results on the court. A home win over rival Avon Grove late in the 2017-2018 season stood out as a highlight for Giles.
Giles said that he really felt welcomed when he toured Neumann University, and he really liked the coach, so he is eager to play at the next level.
Six of the student-athletes who were honored on May 24 were teammates on the 2017 Hornets football team that earned a playoff berth under head coach Mike Means. Last year, the football program had five students go on play at the collegiate level. With the addition of six more students now heading off to play college football, the tremendous success of the football program—which is not just measured in wins and losses—is evident.
The two Brandons—both tremendous offensive weapons for the Hornets—are heading to Albright University. Nadachowski signed with Bloomsburg University. Hurtt is heading to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Tweed and McMurrough are both going to Lebanon Valley College.
DeShields, a wide receiver, hauled in 53 catches for 1,058 yards during his stellar senior season for Oxford. He also scored 12 touchdowns. The productivity, DeShields said, could be credited to his willingness to work hard, which is something that the coaching staff has emphasized.
“We had 70 guys who were willing to work hard,” DeShields said.
During his time at Oxford, DeShields demonstrated an ability to not just make the big play, but to make the tough catch, too. One of his favorite individual highlights came in a victory over Twin Valley when he hauled in a catch that moved the chains on a fourth-and-eight play. He came down with the catch even though he was covered by two defenders. Later in the game, he sealed the victory with an interception.
DeShields said that his strengths as a receiver include his route running and his consistency.
DeShields and Holz were both dual threats on offense, which made it very difficult for opposing teams to shut down Oxford's highly productive offensive attack.
Holz said that the arrival of Coach Means and the new coaching staff completely changed the culture of the football team.
“I feel like it turned around the team,” Holz said. “It 100 percent just flipped the program around.”
Holz was a leader on and off the field for the Hornets, and one of the most productive football players. In his senior season he ran for 1,100 yards and was an All-Ches-Mont League selection.
He said that one of the individual highlights of his football career at Oxford was the Homecoming game when he gained 220 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Like Holz, McMurrough credited Coach Means and the coaching staff with helping to transform the Oxford football program. From that point on, there was an emphasis on hard work and playing for each other, McMurrough said.
“He came in with a program and really changed things around,” McMurrough said.
McMurrough was a right tackle and an anchor on the Hornets' offensive line. While offensive tackles can't point to statistics to illustrate their productivity, the Hornets' offensive and defensive lines have been the foundation that the recent success has been built on.
McMurrough, a team captain, said that the offensive line was an extremely close-knit unit. They would frequently take trips to Texas Roadhouse to build camaraderie and to keep their weight up during the season, he explained.
McMurrough was too valuable to Oxford to move off the offensive line, but at Lebanon Valley College, he may get the opportunity to also play some tight end because of his blocking skills that would be an asset at that position at the collegiate level.
Hurtt was a defensive end on the varsity squad for three seasons. He started playing football in 7th grade. His explosive, play-making ability was on display in a game against Sun Valley when he sacked the quarterback three times and tallied nine tackles. Like McMurrough, Hurtt's productivity can't be fully measured by statistics—but his defensive performances graded out very well.
If the Hornets' varsity football team was on the field, Nadachowski was right in the middle of the action—almost always. He played tight end on offense and linebacker on defense, and developed a knack for making big plays for Oxford on both sides of the ball. As a tight end, Nadachowski was a nightmare for opposing teams to try to defense. He turned in an 80-yard catch-and-run early in the 2017 season against Henderson, helping the Hornets to a victory. He was a reliable tackler on defense, manning the critical middle linebacker position. One of his standout defensive games came against Great Valley during his senior season.
Nadachowski said that he really enjoyed helping the younger players on the team along the way. He and the other seniors have helped transform Oxford into one of the top football programs in the area.