Head coach: Norm Brown
Fourth season at North (19-17); ninth season overall (49-49-1)
Last season: 9-4 overall; 3-1 SEYL
Playoffs: Lost in Central Section D-IV semifinals
History: League titles (11); Section titles (1)
Assistant coaches: Chris Lucas, LB/RB; Paul Bobbitt, QB, special teams; Jihad Lawrence DB/WR
Aug. 17 - vs. Centennial
Aug. 25 - at Monterey
Aug. 31 - vs. Shafter
Sept. 7 - at Wasco
Sept. 14 - vs. West
Sept. 21- BYE
Sept. 28 - at Highland*
Oct. 5 - vs. Foothill*
Oct. 12 - at East*
Oct. 19 - vs. Mira Monte*
Oct. 26 - at South*
James Johnson, senior, TE/LB - A first-team BVarsity All-Area player and the SEYL Defensive Player of the Year, Johnson received plenty of accolades last season, and will be expected to repeat his dominant play on both sides of the ball in 2018. He led the Stars in both sacks (18) and receiving yards (748) last year.
Chris Romero, senior, RB/DB - North’s top rusher returns, after posting a 1,600-yard, 22-touchdown season. Romero will hope to replicate that performance after being recognized as a second-team All-Area selection last year.
Shannon Ferguson, senior, QB/DB/P - A first team all conference player for the Stars’ basketball team, Ferguson will be competing for snaps at quarterback with Cole Fields. The hope is his athleticism on the court translates to success on the field.
Cole Fields, senior, QB/SB/DB - Fields can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball and will be tasked to fill those roles throughout the season. That includes competing for the starting quarterback position.
Dylan Rutledge, junior, OL/DL - The foundation of the North trenches with his 6-foot-3, 275-pound frame. Rutledge plays both sides of the ball on the line, and will be needed to help the skill players create another season of success for the Stars.
Coming off one of the best seasons in North High history — which included a share of the Southeast Yosemite League championship, a semifinal berth in the Division IV playoffs and tying the most wins in school history since 1970 (nine) — expectations are high in Oildale this season.
However, it took a late six-game winning streak to get the Stars to the D-IV semifinal, overcoming a 3-3 rollercoaster start. Head coach Norm Brown wants to avoid a repeat of that and looks to start the season out strong in their opener against former league foe Centennial.
“Last year was special but it was like pulling teeth,” Brown said. “We started out very slow out of the gate and we can’t have that kind of start this year with these guys.
“We might be playing (Centennial) in Oildale, but they’re just right around the block so it doesn’t mean much for home-field. They’re going to bring a giant crowd so it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere.”
The Stars will boast a smaller-than-usual team this season, which will demand players take the field at multiple positions. It will also require them to work harder on conditioning in practice to keep them on the field for all four quarters and turn the team into a close, tight unit. Brown, however, sees that as an asset.
“We’re hoping the experience comes through because we don’t have a big unit this year, but like with coach Golla at BHS, he doesn’t have big numbers, he gets the group he wants, iron sharpens iron, less is more, and so that’s our philosophy right now,” Brown said.
What has changed?
Former quarterback Bailey West left North with school passing records etched in his name. Now the Stars find themselves with a hole under center and have been in the midst of a quarterback battle this summer.
“(West) left a great mentality and lineage of what we need in terms of leadership in that position,” Brown said. “Now, based on that, we have to roll up our sleeves, go to the chalkboard, and start working.”
Shannon Ferguson is returning to football coming off a first-team all-league season in basketball. He will be asked to bring his leadership skills from the court to the field.
Cole Fields, who was West’s backup last season, is seen as a pure athlete by Brown who can play multiple positions in the secondary, backfield, and at receiver. Although noted as the early favorite for the quarterback job, Fields’ versatility could be the reason why he’s not the main QB for North throughout the year.
North lost a few players who were four-year varsity players over the offseason, so while there is still experience on the team, there is also a lot of youth looking for new veteran leaders to step up. One of those potential leaders could be senior James Johnson.
“I want to help my guys out as much as I can and be a leader every day and show the younger guys the ins and outs of everything,” Johnson said. “I’m one of the older guys now. I’m used to being the little guy out there, so it’s going to be fun this year.”