All posts by Newspaper Staff

Just Because: College Football Predictions

Junior Aiden Wacksman loves sports, especially college football. This week, he tries his hand at predicting the final scores of the top 25 teams. It will be interesting to see how many of his guesses are correct! Read on for insight on the top 25 teams in the nation:

1 Clemson (4-0) vs. Syracuse (1-4): I believe this pick is quite clear. Syracuse has struggled to run an efficient offense all season, and the defense is allowing more than 30 points per game to opposing offenses. The Orange make its way into Saturday’s game following a 38-24 loss to Liberty University. Clemson, meanwhile, is thriving this season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a top Heisman trophy contender, and Travis Etienne is arguably one of the best running backs in the country. The Tigers won its game against Georgia Tech in a dominant fashion, the final score being 73-7. I believe Clemson will also win this one by a country mile: Clemson 45, Syracuse 17

2 Alabama (4-0) vs. Tennessee (2-2): Tennessee is coming off a very rough stretch. After starting the season 2-0, the Vols have lost two games in a row. After a 44-21 loss to fourth-ranked Georgia, Tennessee had a chance at redemption in a match against Kentucky. However, it ended in a loss by a brutal score of 34-7. Quarterback Jarret Guarantano has been inconsistent, and the Vols’ defense leaves much to be desired. Alabama, on the other hand, is thriving. The offense has plenty of weapons, such as running back Najee Harris, wide receivers Jalen Waddle and Devonta Smith, and most importantly, star quarterback Mac Jones. The defense also proved to be strong when fourth-ranked Georgia got shut out in the second half of a 41-21 win. I believe Alabama will take the Vols to the woodshed: Alabama 52, Tennessee 20

3 Notre Dame (4-0) vs. Pittsburgh (3-3): The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been on a hot streak. In my opinion, however, this team is a bit overrated in the Associated Press (AP) poll. The Irish have yet to beat a ranked team, and only beat Louisville (1-4) by a score of 12-7. In that game, the Irish only generated 106 passing yards with quarterback Ian Book at the helm. I believe Pittsburgh will fall to Notre Dame, and the losing streak will continue. I expect the score, however, to be a bit closer than the experts predict: Notre Dame 30, Pittsburgh 17

5 Ohio State (0-0) vs. Nebraska (0-0): Big Ten football is back! After a long wait, teams such as Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State will take the field for the first time this season. Ohio State returns starters such as defensive end Jonathan Cooper, wide receiver Chris Olave, and most importantly quarterback Justin Fields. He led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff and threw for 3,373 yards and 41 touchdowns in 14 games last season. While Nebraska had a solid recruiting class in the offseason, I don’t believe it will be enough to match up with the Buckeyes’ excellent coaching and talented roster. I’m taking Ohio State to the bank on this one: Ohio State 45, Nebraska 24

6 Oklahoma State (3-0) vs. 17 Iowa State (3-1): In my opinion, this will be one of the best games to watch this weekend. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are coming off two straight bye weeks, one that was planned and the other due to COVID-19. Running back Chuba Hubbard leads the Oklahoma State offense, as the quarterback situation is currently unknown. Head coach Mike Gundy, however, did tease that he may switch between starting quarterback Spencer Sanders and backup Shane Illingworth during the game. The offense, however, has been underwhelming compared to the defense. The unit has allowed a mere nine points per game to opposing offenses.

The Iowa State Cyclones lost its first game to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in a 31-14 stunner at home. The Cyclones, on the other hand, looked like a completely different team over the past three weeks. The peak of this three-week stretch came when the Cyclones upset the Oklahoma Sooners, who were ranked 18th in the AP Poll at the time. I believe this will be one of the closest games we’ve seen this season, and I can’t wait to watch it unfold: Oklahoma State 24, Iowa State 20

8 Penn State (0-0) vs. Indiana (0-0): In yet another Big Ten matchup, the Penn State Nittany Lions take on the Indiana Hoosiers. Penn State returns key starters on offense such as quarterback Sean Clifford and running back Journey Brown. On defense, however, Penn State lost some talented starters as they declared for the NFL Draft. A key returning starter is defensive end Shaka Toney, who was named a team captain on Thursday. Toney had six-and-a-half sacks last season, and he is looking to improve upon that number this season. On the other side, Indiana will be somewhat different offensively, as the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback is redshirt sophomore Michael Penix Jr. It is important to note that this game will mark Penix’s first time playing at the college level. Indiana’s defense is not something to brag about either, as it allowed nearly 25 points per game last season to opposing offenses. Last year, this game was won by Penn State in a 34-27 nail-biter. I believe that the Nittany Lions will harass and confuse Penix, causing an offensive collapse, which will leave the defense soon to follow: Penn State 38, Indiana 17

9 Cincinnati (3-0) vs. 16 Southern Methodist University (5-0): I believe this is the game of the week in college football. It will be a classic showdown between the high-powered offense of Southern Methodist University (SMU) and the stout defense of Cincinnati. SMU’s offense is extremely talented, consisting of explosive playmakers such as quarterback Shane Buechele and wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. Out of Buechele’s 12 touchdown passes so far this season, Roberson Jr. has caught five. The talented wideout also averages nearly 22 yards per reception. It will be the responsibility of the Cincinnati Bearcats’ defense to keep the explosive offense of the SMU Mustangs in check. So far, this unit is playing at a high level. I would argue that the best defensive showing from Cincinnati came in the match against the Army Black Knights on Sept. 26. This win was not easy by any means, as Army’s defense was rock solid. The Black Knights also run an option-style offense, which can be very tricky for the opposition. The Bearcats played elite football, and held Army to a mere 10 points. 

My main concern in this game is Cincinnati’s offense. Starting quarterback Desmond Ridder has proven to be inconsistent at times and had a sloppy performance in the Bearcats’ last match, which was against the University of South Florida (1-4). SMU has the edge in this game due to Ridder’s inconsistency and indecisiveness. I also believe that Cincinnati’s defense will stand strong in the first half but fall apart in the second: SMU 44, Cincinnati 31

11 Miami (Fla.) (4-1) vs. Virginia (1-3): I think this pick is quite obvious. Miami quarterback D’Eriq King is playing at a high level, and the defense looks much better than it did against Clemson two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Virginia has struggled on defense. Over the last three games, Virginia allowed opponents to score an average of nearly 40 points. I believe the Miami Hurricanes will win this game on Saturday night: Miami 48, Virginia 24

12 Brigham Young University (5-0) vs. Texas State (1-5): Once again, I see this as another obvious pick. Brigham Young University (BYU) quarterback Zach Wilson continues to look great this season and has only thrown one interception in five games. He has passed for 1,641 yards and 12 touchdowns thus far. I believe the BYU Cougars will wipe the floor with Texas State: BYU 49, Texas State 17

14 Wisconsin (0-0) vs. Illinois (0-0): A little more than one year ago, the Wisconsin Badgers were stunned by Illinois in an absolutely shocking 24-23 upset. This year, the Badgers want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan returns for his senior year, but their dangerous weapon is gone as running back Jonathan Taylor declared for the NFL draft last year. Now, the Badgers have to find a new rhythm on offense. Illinois will also be looking to find a rhythm on offense, with senior quarterback Brandon Peters leading the way. While Illinois’ defense returns a solid number of starters, the Badgers lack experience on the depth chart. I expect this game to be a close one, but not quite as close as last years’ bout. Due to the comparative amount of talent on the Badgers’ roster, I’ll have to give that team the edge: Wisconsin 27, Illinois 23

14 North Carolina (3-1) vs. 23 North Carolina State (4-1): The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off a devastating 31-28 loss to Florida State (2-3). At halftime, the Seminoles led 31-7. This large lead, however, was short lived. The Tar Heels scored 21 unanswered points, and trailed 31-28 with a couple of minutes left in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Sam Howell was putting together a game-winning drive, until receivers dropped three passes in a row. I believe that North Carolina was ridiculously overrated in the last poll. The Heels have a lot to prove if it has ambitions of making it back in the top 10, let alone the top five. 

The North Carolina State Wolfpack have been trending in the opposite direction, as the team has won three games in a row. I would deem the win against Pittsburgh as the only respectable one. In this Top 25 matchup, I believe the Tar Heels will come out on top as N.C. State’s defense cannot keep up with the pace of Sam Howell’s offense: North Carolina 34, North Carolina State 21

18 Michigan (0-0) vs. 21 Minnesota (0-0): In another Big Ten opener, the Michigan Wolverines play the Minnesota Golden Gophers on a chilly Saturday evening in Minneapolis, Minn. Michigan is starting quarterback Joe Milton for the first time, and he hasn’t taken many snaps. This leaves many question marks for the upcoming game. The Wolverines also lack some depth at wide receiver, as starter Nico Collins opted out of the season, and many seniors graduated and started their careers in the NFL. On the other side of the football, the Gophers are returning starters such as quarterback Tanner Morgan and wide receiver Rashod Bateman. This Minnesota team is looking to improve upon what was a great 2019-20 season. You can find more information on the Golden Gophers’ successes here. While I have many questions about this year’s WolverinesI have far less about the Gophers. Although Minnesota lost wide receiver Tyler Johnson to the draft last year, I believe the team has what it takes to be elite this season. I think this will be a nail-biter, but the Gophers have my vote to win this game: Minnesota 26, Michigan 24

19 Virginia Tech (3-1) vs. Wake Forest (2-2): Both teams enter Saturday’s contest off of double-digit wins. The Virginia Tech Hokies dominated the Boston College Eagles in a 40-14 blowout, while the Wake Forest Demon Deacons beat the Virginia Cavaliers 40-23. The Hokies have experienced troubles with the coronavirus but are doing a great job of handling adversity. I believe Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker’s leadership will lead the Hokies to a second straight win. This game is going to be a bit closer than expected: Virginia Tech 41, Wake Forest 31

20 Kansas State (3-1) vs. Kansas (0-4): The Kansas State Wildcats have won three games in a row, and backup quarterback Will Howard will lead the team for the rest of the season, as starting quarterback Skylar Thompson suffered a season-ending injury against Texas Tech. Although the Wildcats may have a troublesome situation at the quarterback position, I believe the Kansas Jayhawks aren’t a threat to the 20th ranked team in the nation: Kansas State 38, Kansas 10

22 Marshall (4-0) vs. Florida Atlantic University (1-0): While the Marshall Thundering Herd have been bulldozing through the competition, the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls have not played a single football game in nearly two weeks. The first two games were postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak on the team and squeaked by Charlotte 21-17 on Oct. 3. I believe Marshall will continue to make its case as potential non-group of five contenders for a New Years’ Six Bowl: Marshall 31, FAU 14

25 Coastal Carolina (4-0) vs. Georgia Southern University (3-1): The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers beat the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns last Saturday in a thrilling match that ended in a score of 31-28. Ranked for the first time in program history, the Chanticleers look to make a statement against a Georgia Southern University (GSU) team that has won two in a row. While the GSU Eagles’ offense looks strong, the defense appears weak and even clueless at times. This was demonstrated when a receiver went uncovered in a match against Campbell University (0-4). The defense was lucky that the receiver tripped at the 22-yard line, or else he would have walked into the endzone for a game-tying touchdown. At the end of the day, I believe Coastal Carolina will prove its worth. After all, it would be a shame to lose a spot in the Top 25 one week after receiving it: Coastal Carolina 41, GSU 28

Column: Life on Earth

By Elle Storoe and Mia Currie

Environmental Awareness: being aware of the events occurring in the environment. Environmental awareness can help us save the planet. This column on The Talon is designed to help readers become aware of what is going on in the environment and how we can help the Earth.

This week’s topic: Plastic Waste

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also known as the “Trash Vortex”) is the largest of five offshore garbage accumulation zones in the world. It is a collection of marine debris predominantly made of plastic that drastically damages the oceans. It is constantly increasing in size as most of the waste in not biodegradable. This heap of garbage is estimated to be roughly 1.6 million square kilometers, which is double the size of Texas. It is additionally estimated that the seafloor beneath the patch may also be a trash heap due to the fact that 70 percent of marine debris sinks. Roughly 80 percent of the garbage accumulated stems from land-based activities in North America and Asia. It takes years for the ocean current to push the trash toward the Trash Vortex and during that time, plastic is releasing harmful chemicals into the water. Photo degradation is the main cause of this as harsh exposure to sunlight weakens the structure of plastic.

The marine debris is harming the environment in various ways. The debris is digested by many marine animals and starts a domino effect which disrupts an entire food chain. For example, sea turtles think that plastic bags are jellyfish and suffocate from ingesting them. Albatrosses confuse plastic resin pellets for fish eggs and feed them to their newborn babies, consequently harming them. 

It is important to see how the accumulation of garbage affects our surrounding environment as it is our job to make sure the planet survives. Only we can take a stand and fix the mistakes made in the past that have harmed our environment so badly.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Courtesy of National Geographic

Going along with environmental awareness, we want to reduce our waste. Study shows that more than 300 million tons of plastic are thrown away each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic is going into our oceans, and half of it is single-use plastics. Now that we are aware of how our actions affect the planet with plastic, here is how we can reduce our plastic waste. There are many sustainable swaps we can make to help with even the smallest thing making a significant difference.  

Some examples of sustainable swaps include:

  • Switching out plastic items for bamboo or wood. For example, instead of buying a new plastic toothbrush, we can get a new bamboo one. Instead of using plasticware such as plastic forks and spoons (which are a single-use plastic) we can use metal ones that can be reused repeatedly. 
  • Rather than using plastic water bottles, metal water bottles can be reused and drank from every day. 
  • Using reusable shopping and grocery bags that won’t be discarded once the groceries have been put away. 

There are so many swaps for us to make and just being aware of those swaps can help save our planet. There are so many alternatives to plastic we can use, and every alternative we use is one less piece of plastic that goes into our oceans and onto our planet.  

OHS Football Soars Using 8-Man System

By Brian Storey

Oak Hall School has fielded an 11-man football team since 2006. But for the 2020 season, the program went to the 8-man style of play. The decision was made due to the lack of players. Instead of being part of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) for football, the team is now part of the Sunshine State League along with 14 other teams. Head Coach RJ Fuhr said that roster size was one of the reasons the change was made, but safety was also a priority. “We felt like going into the 11-man season with 16 kids wasn’t what was in the best interest of our kids,” he said.

8-man and 11-man football have many differences. Both versions have the same procedures, rules, and structure because regardless of the total number of athletes on the field, football is football. Some differences between the two include field size, the number of players on the field, jersey number restrictions, how to score extra points, types of formations, and kickoffs just to name a few. 

With 11-man football, the field is 100 yards long and 50 yards wide. In 8-man football however, the field can either be 80 or 100 yards long and must be 40 yards wide. It is up to the home team to decide how long they want their field to be. For example, Oak Hall’s field is 100 yards long which tends to make the offensive drives longer than if we were playing at Master’s Academy (Vero Beach) which is only 80 yards. 

Oak Hall’s varsity football team is implementing the 8-man system this season

Of course, there is the obvious difference between the two formats being that in 8-man, there are only eight players on the field where in 11-man, there are 11 players of the field. This causes the offensive and defensive formations to look a little different. In 8-man there must be five players on the line of scrimmage, three of those being a center and two guards. If a team decides to have five linemen (a center, two guards and two tackles), and then have two wings, then the tackles are tight ends because they become eligible to receive a pass.  From a defensive point of view, teams have a lot of options.  If the team has a safety, it’s pretty useless because the majority of teams are run heavy teams instead of a passing or balanced team. 

Having those three fewer people makes kicking field goals very hard since one side of the line will have one less person, causing that side easier to blitz from. Also, most teams don’t have field goal posts. Instead, after a touchdown teams will go for two points by scoring from the 5-yard line.

In 8-man, kickoffs don’t exist. Instead, the drive automatically starts on the 25-yard line. Despite the fact that the teams don’t do kickoffs, teams are\ still allowed to punt (which often has the same effect as when kicking a field goal partially due to the lack of blockers and because most of the time, 8-man teams don’t have someone who can kick very well). 

While there are many differences in 8-man vs. 11-man, when you get down to it, it’s still football. Many people are realizing this because in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of 8-man teams in Florida since there are many small schools that can’t compete with the more populated schools that have a larger talent pool of student-athletes. For this football season, as the coronavirus has changed how the team practices, travels for away games, and even how the players get water during practice and games, it appears the 8-man Oak Hall team is a good fit for the school. “I am so glad we made the decision to go to 8-man and am very proud of how our team has bought into playing 8 man and also buying into our new offensive system,” Fuhr said. At the end of the day, football games are being played, there hasn’t been an outbreak of COVID-19 at Oak Hall, and the team is undefeated…a highlight to any season.

Enrollment at Upper School Defies COVID Possibilities

By Sarah Rosenberg

Just three years ago, the number of students at Oak Hall School was fairly low and borderline worrisome. As of the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, every grade in the high school is at full capacity based on the regulations put into place from COVID-19. These numbers may puzzle people simply because of the current financial situation of the country and even world. Additionally, the question remains what has sparked the rapid increase of students? To understand the dramatic shift that Oak Hall School has made it is important to consider all the factors.  

First and foremost, new leadership has made leaps and bounds to make Oak Hall a competitive choice for families. Oak Hall’s Head of School Dr. James Hutchins, Upper School Division Head John Perlette, Middle School Division Head Dr. Diana Murdock, and Lower School Division Head Michelle Mills, have worked together with faculty and staff to bring the three divisions closer together. Uniforms have been implemented in all divisions, renovations to campus have continue to occur, and programs such as the Arts Conservatory Program, the Junior Classical League, and numerous athletic programs continue to thrive.  

Looking at this year specifically, it would not have been surprising to Oak Hall administrators to see a decrease in enrollment due to the financial strain that COVID-19 has placed on some families. In actuality, the opposite seems to have happened. Enrollments numbers increased relative to the availability per grade due to COVID-19 in the Upper School. “We have limited the number of students we are accepting this school year due to COVID-19,” said Nancy Coleman, Oak Hall’s Director of Enrollment Management. “We have filled each grade in the Upper School to the maximum capacity we are allowing for the 2020-21 school year,” she continued.  

The reopening plans the COVID-19 task force prepared over the summer put families minds at ease. With proper precautions taken, Oak Hall was ready to open its doors on Aug. 18. In addition to the re-entry plan, sheer population size is important to take into account. The public schools in Gainesville have on average close to 4,000 students. Oak Hall has around240 students in the Upper School. Families have weighed their options and made the decision that Oak Hall is well worth it for them even during such rocky times. 

ACP In the Era of COVID

By Emily Malloy

In 2010, Oak Hall created a program called the Arts Conservatory Program (ACP).  ACP is an advanced track program that allows students to concentrate in theater, music, or visual arts. The students prepare and preform music, art, or theater pieces for their peers, which is rehearsed until the piece is perfected. Normally on performance days, Upper School students, faculty, and staff visit the Cofrin Arts Gallery during lunch period on Friday’s and watch the performances. 

This school year, however, things have switched up a lot for these programs. Upper School music teacher Dr. Dominique Clance says that ACP recitals, for right now, will be virtual. For music ACP recitals, students will record their pieces live using a video camera, including whatever setup they need around them. The only exception is for the singer who will be in a different room. Students only have one opportunity to record their performance, just like they would if they were doing it live. “The reason we allow one ‘take’ is because in normal ACP format, the students only have one ‘live’ performance,” Dr. Clance noted. “This will hopefully preserve the integrity of the recital process so that students still feel a lot of the same feelings as they would if they were performing live,” she continued. Once Upper and Middle School music teacher Jason Stahl edits the entire recital to include a theater or art presentation, it will be presented to the Oak Hall community. 

As the students create their works, it is uploaded to the ACP website, which can be found here!