HEAD COACH: Nathan Peters, 2nd year at Crestwood, 1-7

LAST YEAR: 1-7 (0-3 PTC County)

POSTSEASON: Division V, Region 17

RETURNING LETTERMEN (11)

Name, Pos., Ht., Wt., Yr.

Austin Johnson, WR/DB, 6-0, 160, So.

Chris Hager, WR/DB, 6-1, 180, Sr.

Conner Rowe, OL/DL, 6-5, 200, Jr.

Dalton Tyrrell, RB/LB, 5-10, 180, Sr.

Domenic Picone, OL/LB, 5-10, 180, Sr.

Jaxxon Tekavec, RB/DB, 5-10, 185, Sr.

Keny McCreery, RB/DB, 5-9, 170, So.

Mitch Battiest, OL/DL, 6-1, 225, Sr.

Nick Vilt, RB/LB, 6-1, 190, Sr.

Sean Sweet, OL/DL, 6-4, 275, Jr.

Trent Jakacki, WR/DB, 6-0, 150, So.

IMPACT PLAYERS: Watch out for freshman Louis Blasiole, a top-notch sprinter in middle school who could play a role rushing the passer this year, despite his 5-7, 155-pound frame. Per Peters, "He’s got good reaction skills, so being that little and quick off the ball, we think that he can give some centers and guards some fits up there." … In another example of a smaller player taking on a position often reserved for bigger players, Domenic Picone will sit at left tackle, where Peters said his speed should allow him to get in front of anybody and his wrestling background should help him get leverage on bigger defensive linemen. Per Peters, "He knows all about leverage and hand placement. What we ask our tackles to do is just work in space and get in the way of people and that’s what he’s done." … Mitch Battiest will be a key piece of Crestwood’s offensive line, and after moving from fullback to offensive line, should have more energy stored up for his work on the defensive line, where he is a true terror. ... The Red Devils’ four leading tacklers from a year ago all return, in Jaxxon Tekavec (84), Nick Vilt (72), Battiest (41) and Dalton Tyrrell (40). ... Chris Hager has the length and hands to be a standout at wideout and defensive back as a senior. He is a tremendous home run threat. ... Tyrrell also has the ability to make difficult catches, with Tyrrell and Tekavec combining for 19 receptions last year. ... Conner Rowe is going to lock a lot of pass rushers up with his 6-5 length and strong hands. ... Speaking of strong line play, center Sean Sweet brings tremendous size (6-4, 275) and experience to the position.

WHAT'S NEW: Nick Vilt, an inside linebacker a year ago, is moving to a hybrid safety/outside linebacker role. Per Peters, "He’s got to do a lot out there. He’s got to play the run and the pass all at once. With his athletic ability and his length, we thought he was best out there." … On the other hand, Picone is moving inside, where he is playing alongside Tekavec. … Maybe one of the biggest changes for the Red Devils is the return of Logan Bailey. With Bailey at fullback, Crestwood moved Battiest to the offensive line, where he has played a stabilizing role. … Following the graduation of Dylan Belloir, who handled most of the kicking game for Crestwood last year, Austin Johnson will take punts and kickoffs in 2018, with Vilt possibly stepping in to help with extra points. Johnson kicked for the JV squad last year.

OUTLOOK: After a difficult 2017 season that concluded with a 1-7 record — and two games cancelled due to an off-the-field incident — the Red Devils are optimistic entering 2018. Peters is back calling the offense, not the defense like last year, a much more comfortable position for the head coach. Crestwood has an exciting new quarterback and Hager looks ready to emerge as an All-PTC wideout. The line boasts good size, including the 6-5 Rowe and the 6-1, 225-pounder Battiest. The hope is an improved line, strong quarterback-to-wideout connection and improved work getting red helmets toward the football on defense will make the Red Devils much more competitive. Last year, Crestwood was outscored 136-33 in three County games and 341-91 overall. While the Red Devils have tough battles early, including a trip to CVCA where they’ll grapple with Cincinnati commit Tre Tucker, there are winnable games early and the chance to write a much different story this year.

Jonah Rosenblum