New coach, new approach at Crater
CENTRAL POINT — There’s a new coach and a new approach at Crater High this fall.
Randy Waite, who has coached football at seven high schools over a 25-year career — mostly on the east side of the state — arrived here with a winning resume and a positive approach that has enhanced turnout at all of his stops.
“It’s a matter of recruiting kids in the hallways, building up the youth program and making football the best experience in kids’ lives,” said Waite, whose previous stop was in Rigby, Idaho, where he twice led that school to the state semifinals in a four-year stint. “There is no magic formula. It’s a matter of treating kids right.”
Waite is bringing a different defensive scheme to the Comets — a 3-5 alignment that should take advantage of Crater’s speed, neutralize its lack of depth up front and free up Crater’s two best defensive players — linebackers Logan Lowder and Tony Flores.
The defense should also be fortified by the arrival of new defensive coordinator Berk Brown. Brown was at St. Mary’s last season. Prior to that, he was the defensive coordinator at Southern Oregon University and was on the Raiders’ staff when they won the NAIA national championship in 2014.
“My teams have always been in a three-man front and the 3-5 really plays to this team’s strength,” said Waite, who has posted a career record of 113-73 at Weston-McEwen, Hermiston, La Grande, Ontario and Rigby high schools. “Our defensive line is pretty thin, but we’ve got a lot of quick linebacker types and so that fits with what we’re trying to do.”
Graduation took a heavy toll on the Comets, who return just two starters on offense (running back Cade Weaver and quarterback Trever Davis) and three on defense (Lowder, Tony Flores and nose guard Daniel Flores.)
Waite gives Lowder and the Flores boys high marks.
“Lowder and Tony Flores bring tenacity to the field,” the coach said. “They like to hit, they’re good tacklers, they’re going to cause some havoc.
“Daniel Flores is going to be our center and nose guard. He’s going to be our leader up front on both sides of the ball.”
Weaver, meanwhile, is moving from receiver to running back and is being penciled in for a heavy workload.
“We’re going to be moving him around to get him in open space,” said Waite of the 6-1, 190-pound Weaver. “We’ll have him at running back, in the slot, out wide, in motion, all those things. He’s going to get a lot of touches.”
The Comets are also high on sophomore Gavin Acrey, a 5-9, 165-pounder who has good speed and toughness. A wrestler in the winter, Acrey also likes to participate in logger games. He spent a recent Saturday in Prospect cutting logs with a chainsaw, climbing up poles, throwing axes at targets and partaking in other lumberjack contests.
That evening, he was back in Central Point at a Comets scrimmage.
“He’s something else,” says Crater offensive coordinator David Douglas of Acrey. “He’s our sophomore sleeper. I think he’ll surprise some people.”
Davis started the last couple games at quarterback last season as a freshman and showed flashes of brilliance. He’s adept at passing and running. He’ll also be the team’s kicker and punter and may filter in on defense at safety, said Waite.
“He’s such an athletic kid — it’s going to be hard to keep him off the field,” said Waite of Davis. “He’s also a tireless worker, and that gains him respect with the older kids. He’s out on the field early almost every day throwing the football.”
Other Comets expected to make an impact include slotback/safety Dylan Kinney, slotback/cornerback Bailee Robles and wide receiver/strong safety Jesse Fisher.
Waite said the Comets will continue to implement a no-huddle offense, but won’t be getting off plays every 15 to 20 seconds the way the team did the past few years, simply because they lack depth.
While the Comets lack experience in the playing ranks, they don’t lack expertise or familiarity in the coaching category. Waite was wise enough to bring back a number of assistants from the John Beck era — namely David Douglas (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), John Van Buren (defensive line), Zach Warner (defensive line), Darren Turituri (offensive line), Tommy O’Brien (linebackers) and Wes Davis (wide receivers).
“Keeping some continuity was important,” said Waite. “These guys filled me in right away on what Crater Nation was, that good things have been going on here for a long time.
“We’ve got some new terminology and our defense is completely different, but a lot of things haven’t changed.”
With all of its new faces, Crater likely will be hard-pressed to make the state playoffs. But the Comets qualified nine times in 13 seasons under Beck, and Waite believes the trend can continue.
“We know our (Midwestern) league is tough, it always is, but the goal of getting to the playoffs is always out there,” he said.
The Comets will quickly learn their competitive status as they host a loaded Soldotna, Alaska, squad in their season-opener on Sept. 1. The Stars have won five straight medium school state championships, own a 53-game winning streak dating to 2012 and are 4-0 this season.
Soldotna, located in south central Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, has a population of 4,600 and the school has an enrollment of about 500 students.