Ten of its 18 starters are three-year lettermen.
By MARK W. MILLER
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
COLUMBIANA -- With 20 letter winners returning, it appears Crestview High School will have a better then even chance at defending its 2004 Tri-County League championship and earning a berth in the 2005 Division V state playoffs for the second straight year.
"Any time that you are defending a league championship, you have a target on your back," Crestview coach Paul Cusick said. "It will be interesting to see how we respond to the challenge."
The Rebels have 18 starters (nine on both sides of the ball) returning, and 10 of them are three-year lettermen. Some are two-way performers.
Jordan Reynolds, the 5-foot-inch, 152-pound senior and a three-year letterman, is the returning quarterback. Last year, he rushed for 954 yards and 11 touchdowns while passing for 938 yards and nine TDs.
He'll direct the Rebels' basic spread, no-huddle offense this season.
Quick and smart
"Reynolds is quick, smart and makes good decisions," Cusick said. "We have a chance to score whenever he has the ball in his hands. He can make big plays happen.
"We are experienced on the offensive side of the ball. Hopefully that translates into execution," Cusick said. "We need to have a better balance between the run and the pass.
"Last year, we became to reliant on our running game and must spread the ball around for us to have success offensively this season," Cusick said.
Crestview has enough depth so Cusick plans to use only three athletes that will play both ways this season.
Senior three-year lettermen Adam Thompson, 6-0, 165-pound slot back and Colby Henderson, 5-7, 160-pound split end, had 298 reception yards and four TDs and 205 reception yards and a touchdown, respectively, a year ago.
The Rebels under Cusick's direction have posted a 37-26 record the past six years which included TCL titles and state playoff appearance in 2000, 2001 and 2004.
Crestview lost to Smithville, 28-21, in a first-round playoff game last November.
Jared Corey, 6-0, 222-pound inside linebacker, is a three-year letterman.
Corey made 94 tackles and had four interceptions a year ago.
Nate Yarwood, 6-0, 296-pound senior defensive tackle and a three-year letterman, had 77 tackles and nine sacks.
"Nine guys up front is one of the strong parts of our defense returning," Cusick said. "We'll need to play better on third down situations and create turnovers. Our experience will allow us to be more aggressive."
Coty Bilsky, 5-11, 192-pound outside linebacker, is a two-year letterman who made 71 tackles.
Andy Walton, a 6-5, 251-pound senior defensive end and a three-year letterman, had 10 sacks.
Thompson, a two-way performer, is also a defensive back who had 59 tackles and six interceptions in 2004.
The other three-year lettermen back are seniors Sam Baer (5-7, 228, guard), R.J. May (6-1, 249, tackle), Corey Stevens (5-10, 245 center-defensive tackle) and Justin Coie (5-8, 146, defensive back).
"The TCL is much improved," said Cusick of the league's final season with this lineup. "Columbiana, East Palestine, Lisbon and United have [quality] skilled players coming back.
"Wellsville has great tradition and is an excellent addition to our league," Cusick said. "The team that can [stay focused] week to week will be the one that takes the title."