Crusaders looking to bounce back
The past two seasons have been like the difference between a nightmare and a dream for the Canevin Crusaders.
In 2000, the Crusaders finished 10-2 and advanced to the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
Last year, they were 1-8 and missed the postseason.
"Last year, we didn't have many seniors, and senior leadership is key," said Canevin coach Bob Jacoby, who returns seven players on offense and eight on defense. "We have a lot more experience this year, plus we have eight seniors this year. They have been around for the team that had success and last year's team which struggled. So they know what we need to do this season."
Going into camp, junior Lucas Parker was the frontrunner at quarterback, but he was to be challenged by Shawn McDonald and Robert Eberlein. Last season, Parker passed for 469 yards on 45 of 101 passes and six touchdowns. Jacoby said Parker is an athletic quarterback who will have an experienced backfield behind him. Leading the ground game is Lou Tenace, who rushed for 505 yards on 124 carries and three touchdowns last season. If McDonald doesn't play quarterback, he will run the ball. He rushed for 278 yards on 74 carries and one touchdown last season.
The Crusaders need to find a replacement for wide receiver Jason Shapiro, who caught 18 passes for 203 yards and five touchdowns last season. Rich Francis, who caught 12 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown, returns at wide receiver. He is the only veteran pass catcher.
"We have some kids who are talented, but we just need to find the right combination of receivers," Jacoby said.
The first order of business going into camp was to find a blocking tight end, which the Crusaders did not have last season. The offensive line should be solid with 6-foot-1, 270-pound sophomore tackle Wayne Blumling. He started as a freshman and was all-conference. Team captain Rich Naper is the senior lineman Jacoby needs to take a leadership role. Naper will start at guard and tackle. Senior Charlie Baker will play at end and defensive back. The Crusaders needed to firm up the kicking game during training camp. Canevin has players who can kick, but not consistently.
Parker handled field goals and extra points last season, but Jacoby wanted to cut down on the duties Parker has to handle this year. Junior Kevin Undereiner most likely will handle the punting.
"Kevin has a good, strong leg," Jacoby said. "He just needs to work on getting height on the ball. He gets good distance. He just needs to get some more height."
Jacoby planned to spend most of camp working on fundamentals.
"Our practices will be more structured and we will have more meetings than we did in past years to discuss things," Jacoby said. "Hopefully, the exhibition games will give us a chance to get some experience, especially for our underclassmen."