Key Players: RB Chris Crockett (5-10, 190, Sr.), QB Hobie Hondros (6-0, 175, Sr.), WR Jake Beatley (6-0, 175, Sr.), OL/DT Peter Downing (6-2, 230, Sr.), OLB Ayman Bezerbashi (5-9, 170, Sr.), DE Colton Wade (6-3, 215, Sr.)
2006 Record: 8-4
After winning their second state championship in 2003, Gahanna Columbus Academy fought through back-to-back losing seasons. The Vikings rebounded in 2006, making a return to winning form.
“I thought our team performed very well last year,” head coach Mark Barren said. “We were probably a team that for a lot of people, we probably caught some teams off guard, maybe exceeded expectations. Among ourselves I felt the potential was there to have a pretty good team. How good? It really depended on some kids developing who were some of the upper classmen, and obviously that happened. I thought we had great senior leadership, and that was crucial. A number of kids not only played well as we potentially thought they could but in many cases exceeded that. That’s what really put us over the edge. So I thought we had a very good season in qualifying for the playoffs and we’re very pleased with that.”
This year, Academy may be one of the favorites to do big things in their region. But some areas still need to be addressed, plus they won’t sneak up on anyone this season.
“I think there’s a couple of things,” Barren said. “First of all, we graduated some pretty good kids in our line, so we need to rebuild some things in our line although that exact same thing happened going into last season, and again some kids came through. That will be a challenge for our kids in the line to do that although I think we have some boys that will definitely rise up and meet that challenge. So that’s going to be one big thing.
“The other thing is because we had a good year last year and we have a lot of our skill kids coming back, I think teams or schools now kind of look at Academy and say ‘The potential is there for them to be pretty good,’ and so we’re going to have to be ready because teams are going to be looking for Academy and they’ll be ready to play us. That’s also a challenge to once you had that success to repeat that success.”
Academy will be led by running back Chris Crockett, who is a contender for player of the year honors in Division V and is receiving looks from major college programs.
“Chris rushed for just under 2,000 yards and 37 touchdowns as a junior,” Barren said. “Obviously having him back in the backfield is a big help.”
Crockett has scholarship offers from multiple MAC schools and has received interest from programs such as Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.
“Over the years, we’ve had some pretty good running backs,” Barren said. “Certainly Chris would be right up there with the best of any of them. He’s that good.”
Crockett is not the only option on offense for Academy.
“Hobie Hondros is our quarterback; he threw for about 12 to 1,300 yards and only took about two interceptions last year,” Barren said. “Jake Beitlen is one of our top receivers and he’s back. So those three kids right away I think gives our offense a little firepower. But again, we have to find some boys to go along with Chris in the backfield. We need to get some kids to get in that offensive line and come through. But I’m hoping that offensively we’ll be able to move the ball and score some points.”
Among the key returning players on defense are linebacker Ayman Bazerbashi, lineman Peter Downing and defensive end Colton Wade.
“Defensively it’s a mix of some kids coming back,” Barren said. “We lost some good kids but I think we have some pretty good players coming back. At outside linebacker is Ayman Bazerbashi; Ayman has really come along for us and played well towards the end of the year as an outside linebacker. He’s a pretty tough kid, so I’m looking for Ayman to have a pretty good year.
“Peter Downing – and Peter actually is one of our returning offensive linemen – is one of the boys last year who had limited playing experience and ended up being an all-league offensive tackle for us. Peter on both sides of the ball was elected a captain but defensively will be one of the guys that should have a pretty good year for us.”
“Colton Wade, who spot played some at defensive end, I think he’s a boy that has the potential to be a pretty good player for us. I’d love to see Colton come on and have a great year for us. He’s been working hard in the offseason as a basketball player and is now working in the weight room.”
The Vikings are aiming to get back to the playoffs and make the next step, but several quality teams stand in their path.
“The thing I like about is our schedule is it’s a tough, competitive schedule,” Barren said. “The thing I enjoy is the competition. If we can win, we can look and say we have a pretty solid team. If we can win enough to get in the playoffs, I think it prepares us well for the playoffs because any team you play at that point is going to be good. I like playing that schedule. It’s a tough schedule. Obviously the risk is you could lose a couple of close games and it bounces you right out of the playoffs. But I would much rather play that tough competition.”
Gahanna Columbus Academy
|8/24/2007||Columbus Linden McKinley||3|
|8/31/2007||@ Columbus Bishop Hartley||4|
|9/28/2007||@ Hebron Lakewood||3|
|10/19/2007||@ Columbus Bexley||3|
|10/26/2007||Newark Licking Valley||6|