CONVOY – Crestview ran out a lot of new faces last year.
This year Knights coach Jared Owens is hoping that experience can pay dividends.
Even with a young team, and without the services of record-breaking quarterback Drew Kline, the Knights went 5-5 last year, 4-3 in the Northwest Conference.
They also averaged 32 points a game (third in the NWC), while giving up 22 per game (fourth in the NWC).
In all, seven starters return, but since all of them play both ways, they’ll fill 14 positions.
“I like our leadership and we have quite a bit of playing experience from last year,” Owens said. “We want to use that experience and have to jell as a team. We have guys who have established themselves.’’
First team all-NWC running back senior Brody Brecht returns with his bruising style and hits the line with his jackhammer approach. Brecht led the NWC with 1,556 yards rushing with 18 TDs. He averaged 7.6 yards-per-carry. He also caught six passes for 132 yards and two TDs.
“Brody’s been playing since he was a freshman,” Owens said. “He’s the focal point of our offense. And I’ll say he’s as a hard a worker as I’ve had. Through the quarantine, he was on the phone encouraging guys. And he’s one of the better running backs in our area.’’
Gone is running back Caylib Pruett, who ran for 451 yards and four TDs, as well as having 10 receptions for 126 yards.
Also gone is Isaiah LaTurner, who was all-NWC on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Taking over Pruett’s spot in the backfield is Logan Gerardot, who saw some time at running back last year.
“Logan is capable of having a nice year in the backfield,” Owens said.
Three return on the offensive line with center Carson Kreischer (second team all-NWC), Ian Bailey and Trevor Sheets.
“Carson was another one who got on the phone when we couldn’t work out,” Owens said. “He’s a hard worker and gets the job done, like he did in basketball.’’
Back at tight end is Ayden Lichtensteiger, who is now about 6-foot-2, 210.
Dalton Castle will see action at wing back and tight end.
Hunter Rothgeb and Rontae Jackson will both see action at wide receiver.
A key will be plugging in a new quarterback for the second straight year.
Quarterback Kaden Short took over for graduated Kline, but now Short has graduated.
“Last year our biggest issues were we didn’t have and established quarterback or wide receivers who were established,” Owens said. “We ran mostly a double-tight end set and were more smash-mouth running game.
“This year we want to evolve from that. I think we have guys who can get open and we have guys who can throw it to them. We want to
throw it when we want to and keep teams honest. We want to be able to hit some big plays.’’
Battling for the quarterback spot are junior J.J. Ward and sophomore Carson Hunter.
Owens added both quarterbacks can throw and both and run the option, an important play with Brecht in the backfield.
“Ward played tight end and running back last year and can play any skill position,” Owens said.
Hunter saw some action on defense and was the junior varsity quarterback.
“They both can throw and both comfortable with it (the option,” Owens said. “They have the tools.’’
Owens added that the one who doesn’t start at quarterback will play wide receiver or defensive back.
The defense will run a 4-3 defense and have four veterans back on the line.
Lichtensteiger will be at an end and will be joined up front by Kreischer, Bailey and Sheets.
The linebackers are also set with Brecht, Gerardot and Castle moving from cornerback to linebacker.
Gerardot was first team all-NWC defensive back, while Brecht was first team all-NWC at linebacker.
As for the keys to getting back to a winning record and making a playoff run, Owens said, “There are a couple of open spots on the offensive line and we have a couple guys competing. And we have to decide on the quarterback.’’
Owens said that those battles will be interesting with no scrimmages.
“We’ll practice for Week 1 and do what we can do,” he said. “Everything else is beyond our control.’’