While the school has continually churned out impressive athletes year after year, the 2017 Crusaders might have to rely more on unproven talent than in years past. After graduating a senior class of 15 players, who all played significant roles on the team, it may come down to whether some underclassmen in the program can hold their own at the varsity level or not.
Until a Division 8 squad can dethrone the Golden Domers, however, the Crusaders have to be the betting favorites entering the 2017 season.
Here are three questions facing the team this fall:
How will the team replace experienced seniors with unproven underclassmen?
Czerwon: “The challenge for us is developing those younger players, so that they are ready when the fall rolls around. We’ve had all offseason to work with them on things and the minute that state finals game was over, we knew we were going to have to replace last year’s senior players. So the next morning, we were back to square one. We knew we had to help develop those players and get them comfortable enough to step into those new roles vacated by last year’s seniors.
“In order to accomplish that, they had to do all the things they can like lift weights, run, do individual skill drills, and hopefully they’ve grown to the point where you can trust them in bigger roles at the varsity level.”
How will the team replace the backfield trio of LaTommy Scott, Walker Christoffersen and Logan Helton?
Czerwon: “Riley St. Amour comes to my mind. He’s a talented kid who has been stuck behind three really talented running backs the last few years, so he’ll get his chance this year. He played a lot of fullback last year in our Wing-T looks, so he’ll probably get more of chance this year.
“(Dawson) Steigman is another player that will step into a big role for us. He’ll probably play a lot on defense and play the slot on offense for us, too. Tommy Watts is a kid that was a talented freshman last year, but was a little smaller. He’s gotten a little bigger this offseason, and we’re looking for him to do some things for us on offense this year.
“It’s just a matter of brining those younger guys up, and they have to carry those loads now. It’s not a question of talent; they just have to learn on the fly a little bit.”
Can sophomore phenom Cameron Martinez carry the load on offense and defense for the Crusaders?
Czerwon: “Cam is taking on a bigger role this year, especially from a leadership position. He’ll be playing quarterback full-time now, and manning the middle of the defense from his safety position, too. He’s talented enough to handle that, but he’s got to keep progressing, too. He’s already way ahead of where he was at last year. Hopefully, we’ll have this same conversation next year, and he’ll be even further ahead going into his junior year than he is now.
“He’s a dynamic playmaker for us, and we have a lot of confidence that if we give him the ball on offense, good things will happen. He’s got a better grasp of the offense after a full season in the playing rotation, and he should be an anchor for us on defense, too.”
The Crusaders will host a six-team scrimmage on Aug. 17 at 5 p.m., followed by a Week 2 trip to Frankfort. As of Friday, the Crusaders do not have a Week 1 opponent scheduled.