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By Will Nations
The Oak Hill Raiders are again heading for the MAIS Class-AA postseason as one of four wild cards.
Coming over from an assistant coach post at Immanuel Christian School in Steens, Daniel Merchant could not have imagined the success that he found at Oak Hill with two consecutive berths into the playoffs â€“ an accomplishment he thought he would have achieved later in his tenure.
â€śI canâ€™t really put into words how hard the boys have worked to get to this point,â€ť Merchant said. â€śWe canâ€™t play the games for them, they have to do it themselves. Itâ€™s amazing to watch how this team has grown and gotten to this point, this quickly.â€ť
Through a culture change inside the locker room, weight room and practice fields, the second-year head coach brought a winning regular season in his first year on the sidelines after the Raiders had lost all 11 contests during the 2011 season. The 6-5 overall record was good enough for Oak Hill to land a spot in the 16-team bracket and a first-round trip to North Delta School in Batesville. The accomplishment of making the playoffs was satisfying for the Raiders, but a 42-0 loss to the North Delta Green Wave made the MAIS District 2-AA team hungrier for a playoff win.
â€śLast season, a lot of our losses were blow out losses,â€ť Merchant said. â€śThis year, we have only had one or two losses that got away from us. We have played better competition, our guys have gotten stronger and we have gotten better.â€ť
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