The Crestview Cougars, a team not used to losing seasons, posted a disappointing 4-6 mark in 2007. Things turned around quickly, however, with a strong 9-2 showing in 2008. What do they do for an encore?
Ashland Crestview (9-2)
* Players To Watch – DT/OG Abe Thompson (6-5, 225, sr.; 18 TFL (school record), 8 sacks, conference OL of the year), RB/ILB Loren Hulit (5-11, 185, sr.; 114 tackles, 16 TFL; 194 att, 910 yards, 12 TDs), NT/G Jimmy Holliday (5-11, 215, sr.; 55 tackles, 7 TFL), TE/OLB Nicholas Manocchio (6-1, 200, sr.; 13 sacks (school record), 4 TD at TE)
* Outlook – The Crestview Knights, a team not used to losing seasons, posted a disappointing 4-6 mark in 2007. Things turned around quickly, however, with a strong 9-2 showing in 2008.
“The previous year, we came off a 4-6 season, so I think we exceeded what the public’s expectations of us were, but at the same time, that’s the type of program that we hope to put together in the future — a team that’s capable of doing something like that,” head coach Sean Conway said. “I attribute it to a lot of hard work and dedication from the kids. There was outstanding leadership from last year’s senior class and they’re going to be greatly missed here in the future.”
Conway credits the character of last year’s team as a big reason for the success.
“I think part of the reason for the turnaround was not only did we have a good group of football players, but we had really good kids,” he said. “They were well-liked throughout the school. They treat kids at the school the right way, and because of that, I think the community really did rally around them because they were kids that you wanted to cheer for. That was the best academic team we’ve had and the hardest workers, and I think that’s attributed to the hard-working community here at Crestview.”
The Cougars wound up running into a buzzsaw in Round One of the playoffs, falling 38-7 at Hamler Patrick Henry, but the team is using the experience as a stepping stone and their opponent as an example of what they would like to become.
“I think the main thing is last year, I think we were happy to be there,” Conway said. “I think after going to Patrick Henry and seeing what that program has accomplished and the respect we have for that program, we kind of decided that that’s what we would love to have. So it’s not about getting there anymore. The goal is to make the playoffs, but we don’t want to just be happy to be there; we want to get there and try to win a game and win another game.”
This year’s team seems to be carrying some momentum from last season into 2009, but the Cougars will be making it a point to take one game at a time, starting with the opener against West Salem Northwestern.
“The goal is still to win Week 1, because we do have a difficult schedule,” Conway said. “Northwestern was in the playoffs three straight years recently, so the goal is to win Week 1. But I do think last year’s success has self-motivated the kids. This seems to be the most self-motivated Crestview offseason we’ve had. I don’t know if it’ll translate into wins and losses, but I’m definitely happy with the way the kids are working and the dedication they have shown.
“Like every year, the Firelands conference is always a difficult league, highlighted by Norwalk St. Paul. They are definitely the team to beat, and anyone will tell you that. (Head coach John) Livengood has done an unbelievable job. If we’re ever going to want to be conference champion, we have to start by getting by Norwalk St. Paul because they are the bar in our league. But every week’s going to be difficult. I see teams getting better, and not only are we matched up against great teams, but we’re matched up against great coaches, so every week’s going to be a challenge. We’re really looking to try to take it one game at a time, and hopefully that will pay off for us.”
This year’s team returns five starters on offense and six on defense.
“Like any year, it could go one of two ways,” Conway said. “I think if our underclassmen step up like I think they are capable of, I think we could have another successful season, but also if we don’t have the leadership from the seniors and if we don’t have those young guys step up, then we play a lot of tough teams and it could be a long year. Like any year and like any team, it could go one of two ways. But I do look for the kids to work hard and try to gain that advantage through hard work in the summer, and we’ll continue that motivation that we’ve had recently.”
8/28 @ NORTHWESTERN (WEST SALEM)
9/4 @ LOUDONVILLE
9/18 ST PAUL (NORWALK)
10/2 NEW LONDON
10/9 @ SOUTH CENTRAL (GREENWICH)
10/16 @ WESTERN RESERVE (COLLINS)
10/23 @ MAPLETON (ASHLAND)