EPHRATA — Ephrata senior Jakob Oxos has taken enough bus rides over the course of his high school playing career to stretch the tape from here to CenturyLink Field.
In fact the Tiger bus was slogging down the freeway on its way to Ellensburg for one run at the Bulldogs before the holiday break when the Columbia Basin Herald caught up with him.
Not much to do riding the ol’ Yella Dog to and fro, might as well answer a few questions to make the sagebrush go by a little faster.
The Ephrata senior is a two-sport guy on his way to the final stretch of his high school playing career. He likes listening to Garth Brooks, maybe a little rap, doesn’t mind when the game gets rough.
But he likes dishing out the hit, rather than taking it. Smart lad.
Growing up in the heart of the Columbia Basin agriculture community has taught him a few things about hard work and discipline, and it’s carried over to who he is and how he plays the game.
“Growing up in Ephrata, you feel connected with everyone, ya know?” he said. “It’s really fun to be around the people. Everybody pretty much knows what’s going on and I like that.
“I’ve learned how to work hard and be disciplined in what I do. It’s part of growing up here that I’ll always remember.”
Oxos hauled in 57 passes for 827 yards and 14 touchdowns in the Tigers turn-around season to cap a stellar career at wide receiver, averaging 14.5 yards per catch. They beat Ellensburg for the first time in 10 years and It was a far cry from his junior season when the Tigers went 2-7.
Ephrata coach Jay Mills moved Zac Berryman from running back to quarterback last year and it added a whole new dimension to the Tiger offense that featured four receivers over six feet with Hunter James (6-4), Josh Benthem (6-4), Chris Walker (6-3) and Oxos (6-2). They still had a balance with running back Leeland Burleson and Berryman, but the passing game with the big guys was a lot of fun, Oxos said.
“Zac throws a pretty sweet ball and he knows that I’ll go up and catch it if he gets it to me. It’s pretty fun when he lays it out there and I get to go chase it down,” Oxos said. “I just like working on the corner and catching the ball and. I worked on my catching skills a lot, using my hands so the pads don’t knock it loose.
“Luckily, Zac doesn’t leave us exposed too much when we go across the middle.”
He hasn’t really decided if he likes basketball or football more than the other. It’s just been something that’s been a part of his life over years. This year they went a little deeper in the football season to the crossover game, so the transition was quick from one season to the other. There’s football shape and there’s basketball shape, but it doesn’t take him long to get to knocking down the 3-ball and running the floor.
“You need a different level (of training) in basketball than you do in football, but once you get into it it’s pretty easy,” said Oxos, who’s averaging 17 points a game so far. “Shooting the 3 is pretty fun and I like running the floor like we do.”
The Tigers are averaging 12 3-point field goals a night and Ox is usually good for four or five of them.
“We play the percentages. We know we’re going to make some and give some up. Jake’s a great 3-point shooter and when he gets on a roll we can count on him (from the perimeter),” Ephrata boys coach Brandon Evenson said.
He’s been knocking down the trey and scoring touchdowns, enjoying the company of his friends and teammates, making those long bus rides to Ellensburg and Grandview for most of his high school career.
That’s coming to an end with the basketball season, and hopefully not until SunDome in March.
He’s not sure if he’s headed to college or the workforce. But when it’s all said and done, he hopes Ephrata fans remember a respectful, hard-working guy that wore orange and black with pride and represented his town with dignity.
“I would want people to remember a guy that works hard, day in and day out,” he said.
Bus ride’s over, time to go to work.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org