OXFORD >> The handshakes and hugs will likely last a little longer at the conclusion of tonight’s Seymour at Oxford football game.
It will be a reunion of sorts.
Oxford head coach Joe Stochmal and assistants Joe Gumbrewicz, Bob Kelo and Charlie Rizzio are all Seymour graduates. Stochmal played at Seymour before graduating in 1988. Kelo was a Seymour assistant from 1982-2008 and still teaches math, and is the head baseball coach, at that school.
“I see the (Seymour) kids everyday, and I’m friends with the coaches and now I am helping (Stochmal) over here,” Kelo said. “It’ll be a little weird being on the other sideline.”
Oxford and the visiting Wildcats will meet for the first time, in a game part of the SWC-NVL Challenge. Kickoff is set for 7.
Former Seymour coach Paul Sponheimer, who mentored many of the coaches on both sidelines from 1980 to 2008, will be honored before the game and will flip the coin to kick off the new rivalry.
Stochmal, a former assistant at Hillhouse, built the Wolverines program from scratch. Stochmal has since positioned Oxford, now in its seventh season, as contenders in the SWC.
“It’s given me to time to get accustomed to being the Oxford coach,” Stochmal said. “These are my guys right here, and these are the guys I’m working with getting prepared to play another team. It just so happens to be Seymour. I think it’s a great opportunity, it’s a new Valley rivalry. It’s two Valley teams going at it, that always makes for a good game. They’re a very physical football team, we like to think we are, too. I think it’s going to be a backyard brawl.”
Since stepping down as an assistant at Seymour Kelo has helped Stochmal at Oxford, becoming a full-time assistant last year.
“He needed some help,” Kelo said. “I wasn’t doing anything in the afternoon so I decided to come over and help him out. The kids have been good.”
The Oxford players are aware of its coaches past with Seymour but the talk has mainly been focused on the task at hand.
“I know a lot of the (Seymour players),” Oxford senior quarterback Kyle Chudoba said. “Coach Kelo recently came from there. It’s another game. We’re just going to prepare like it’s another game. It has some meaning, it definitely makes it fun, but we just have to prepare like it’s any other team and just go after it.”
Oxford-Seymour will become an annual event beginning next season when the Wolverines join the NVL When the SWC-NVL challenge commences next year, Oxford will face Derby as a member of the NVL. The matchup was determined before the Wolverines switched leagues. Oxford will be a member of the yet unnamed NVL division that also includes Ansonia, Derby, St. Paul and Seymour.
“I think it’s good for all of our athletics, not just for football,” Stochmal said. “I think the SWC did a great job welcoming us. I think it’s a great league, and I think the NVL is a great league as well. But I think overall, with all of our athletic programs at the high school, I think it’s going to be good for Oxford high school.”
To emerge victorious against Seymour, the Wolverines will need to contain junior running back Joey Salemme, who has rushed for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and the potent Wildcats’ ground game.
In comparison, Oxford’s offense is fairly balanced, led by Chudoba (11 touchdown passes) and senior running back Steve Persson (546 rushing yards, six touchdowns). Senior Chris Van Kamerik leads the team with 27 receptions for 471 yards and nine scores.
Both teams enter at 3-2, and this contest could determine each team’s playoff fate. Oxford finished 8-2 last season but just missed out on qualifying for the postseason for the first time.
“We don’t talk about the playoffs,” Stochmal said. “We leave that to the media and the fans. We take one game at a time and see where we are at the end of the year.
“By no means do we think we’re out of the playoff picture but we’re not focused on that right now. We’re only focused on (tonight) and Seymour.”
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