2012 Schlarman football preview
DANVILLE — Catlin Crozier has a message for whomever wants to listen: Write about the Schlarman Hilltoppers, but don’t write them off.
“It’s going unbelievable,” the first-year Schlarman football coach said. “I couldn’t ask for better kids. They work hard, don’t complain, don’t argue. They are the true definition of a team. They help each other out.”
What the Hilltoppers lack is quantity. Crozier has 21 squad members. Nine of them are seniors, but only three (Cody Carpenter, Clein Gard and Maher Samawi) have played football all four years in high school.
“We’re shy on experience,” Crozier said, “but I like it that way. Instead of breaking a kid down and rebuilding him, we can build from the way I want it to be taught.
“The ones who’ve played are easy to teach. I’m very optimistic. Nobody knows what we’ve got. I plan on succeeding as a team. I believe we have the opportunity to impress a lot of people.”
Senior Clein Gard is returning at quarterback. The veteran opened last season by throwing touchdown passes in his first three games. As a sophomore, he had a game with five TD passes.
In front of him is an offensive line without significant varsity minutes, but plenty of size.
The center is senior Dion Jones (250 pounds), a second-year footballer. The guards are senior Steven Brown (240 pounds), who last played as a freshman, and senior Tyler Rohrer (240 pounds), who took up football as a sophomore.
The tackles are senior Dalton Dieu (250 pounds), who started playing football as a junior, and Devin Gondry. Dieu and Gondry are Schlarman’s two-sport athletes. They are also on the golf team.
“The line is young (in terms of experience), but I feel we can teach them,” Crozier said.
Carpenter and sophomore Josh Bush will be two of the team’s top receivers. Senior Pedro Rangel, who didn’t play as a junior, will play the slot and Samawi is projected as the tight end. Freshman Emmet Black could be the featured running back.
A nucleus of six offensive starters will start two ways, including Black, Bush, Carpenter and Rangel in the secondary. Samawi will be the middle linebacker.
Rohrer will be one of the defensive line anchors. Many of his offensive cohorts will also see time on defense, but Crozier — a former lineman at Hoopeston Area (from where he graduated in 2004) — "plans to rotate so we can keep the offensive line fresh.”
The turnout overall is not eye-popping, but Crozier said, “in key positions, we have depth.”
Others who figure in the defensive line mix are senior Ned O’Brien (230 pounds), who last played as a freshman, and senior newcomer Connor Harvey (220 pounds).
Crozier coached the linemen last year, in Mike High’s final season as head coach. He was moved up to offensive coordinator when Randy Skaggs was hired as High’s replacement, but Skaggs resigned last spring to accept the softball coaching position at Danville Area Community College and Crozier was elevated to the head position.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready to take the job, but I was under Coach (Jason) Woodworth last spring in baseball and then I thought I was ready to handle the whole load,” Crozier said. “Baseball helped me to get involved with the school. I’m excited, but nervous at the same time. I’m really excited to get the kids to see the talent level we have.”
Though Crozier has just two multi-sport fall athletes, he has one multi-sport fall coach. His special teams coach is Tyler Overstreet, who is the Hilltoppers’ cross-country head coach.
Other Schlarman assistants are Demetric Hightower, Justin Levingston, C.J. Pascual, Frank Kimmel, Matt Blurton, Logan Patton and Crozier’s father, Chuck, who will join Patton in the booth on game nights.
Schlarman opens its season on Aug. 24 at home against Cerro Gordo/DeLand-Weldon/Bement. A year ago, Schlarman finished with a 2-7 record, but was not shut out in any game.
Wednesday: Salt Fork Storm