FOOTBALL '19: Defense keys Crater hopes for playoff run
Randy Waite is a modest man who takes a cautious approach when it comes to predicting how his football team might fare.
No team has ever won a game in preseason practice, let alone a league or state championship, he would tell you.
But Waite is having a hard time suppressing his jubilance when it comes to the Crater Comets. And who can blame him?
When the third-year head coach peeks at his roster, he sees a fourth-year starting quarterback, three returning wide receivers, a returning running back and four offensive linemen that toiled in the trenches as regulars in 2018.
Defensively, six starters return.
What’s not to like?
“On paper, we look great,” Waite said. “There’s a lot of optimism, and this group hangs out together off the field as well as on, which is a good sign. But paper doesn’t win football games.”
Waite cautions that Crater doesn’t have a lot of depth, and he’s quick to note the Comets open their season at Wilsonville — the 2018 state runner-up — and then meet defending state champion Thurston at home in week three.
“We’re going to find out quickly how we stack up against a couple of really good teams,” he said.
The Comets have the talent to hang with the best.
They’ll be led by senior quarterback Trever Davis, who’s been taking snaps since his freshman season. He passed for 2,170 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago, when Crater went 7-4 overall and advanced to the state quarterfinals. It was second in the Midwestern League South Division with a 4-1 record.
Davis also ran for 573 yards and seven scores as the Comets averaged 41.7 points per game.
“He’s Mr. Steady,” said Waite of the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Davis. “Nothing rattles him. He’s not a real vocal guy — he leads by example — but the other kids fall in line behind him.”
Although Davis piled up yardage and touchdowns last season as he hit the airways for nearly 24 pass attempts per game, his 52 percent completion statistic needs to ramp up, Waite said.
“We throw the ball downfield a lot but we want him at 60 percent,” the coach said.
Four other skill position players return as starters: wide receivers Trevor Jaasko and Chase Sherer, slotback Dawson Douglas and running back Gavin Acrey.
Jaasko, a junior who snagged 44 catches for 732 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago, hooked up with a traveling 7-on-7 team from Eugene that ventured to Las Vegas in the offseason.
“He’s fast, and he catches everything,” said Waite of Jaasco. “Other teams will have to adjust their schemes to cover him or it’s going to be a long night for them.”
Senior Robert Amoson will join Douglas at the other slot spot in the Comets’ four-receiver sets.
Junior Brady Eaton also figures to get snaps at each position and will start on defense at free safety. Brady’s identical twin brother, Blake, will serve as the backup quarterback.
“This group is upper tier,” said offensive coordinator David Douglas, the father of Dawson Douglas. “The speed, the knowledge of route running and the execution of what we’re trying to do — it’s high-level stuff. These guys are going to be fun to watch.”
Ditto for Acrey, a cat-quick senior who was hobbled with injuries last season but still managed to run for 576 yards. Senior Brady Brock, who will start at inside linebacker on defense, and scatback junior Cameron Kramer will also pack the pigskin.
With so much experience across the board, the Comets, who rarely huddle and often get plays off in less than 20 seconds, plan to add formations to their offense this season. They’ll slide into two-back sets, employ a tight end, move a player into a wing position — it’s all about keeping defenses honest, Waite said.
“It takes time and repetition to do this but we’ve got a quarterback in his fourth year and other guys in their second or third year, so we think we can make it work,” he said. “We don’t want defenses to dial up their exotic looks against us.”
Up front, guards Hunter Van Sickle and Gerritt Warner and tackles Dawson Davis and Jacob Memmott return as starters.
Center Crayton Gillispie plugged in for three starts last season because of injuries. Davis, a junior, is the only underclassman in the group.
“It really helps having those guys up front completely up to speed with our skill kids,” David Douglas said. “They’ve seen every blitz and (defensive) front. They can handle line calls and adjustments and not put the onus on the quarterback.”
Unlike the offense, Crater’s defense is simplifying its schemes. After yielding 33.6 points per game a year ago — including a stunning 78 to Wilsonville in a playoff loss — the Comets are going basic.
Returning stop-unit starters include cornerbacks Acrey and Bruce Cwiklinski, strong safety Amoson, end Jacob Chenoweth and linebackers Tyler Ennis and James Ruth.
Other major contributors figure to be Brady Eaton and Brock, and hard-nosed wrestlers Joseph Jordahl, at end, and Isaiah Mays, at nose tackle. Jordahl was the state runner-up at 195 pounds at the Class 5A tournament last winter.
“Our pass defense really broke down last season,” Waite said. “We’d be doing OK at stopping the run and then get hurt by a long pass play on broken coverage. There was a lot of confusion. We’re simplifying everything. We want the kids to use their athletic ability and just play.”
If the Comets can solidify their defense, they could make a deep run in the playoffs. They’ll get a couple of early-season exams when they line up against Wilsonville and Thurston.
HEAD COACH: Randy Waite (third year, 12-9).
Crater’s high-octane offense averaged 41.7 points per game last season but the defense yielded 33.6.
ASSISTANTS: David Douglas (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers), Berk Brown (defensive coordinator/defensive backs/wide receivers), Beau Stanfield (defensive line), Vincent Gay (linebackers), Brad Eaton (offensive line), Zach Warner (defensive line), Wes Davis (director of operations), J.R. Godley (running backs), Tony Cobb (quarterbacks).
2018 LEAGUE RECORD: 4-1 (second, MWL).
2018 OVERALL RECORD: 7-4.
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: Tied first.
20; Wilsonville 53
58; Willamette 14
35; Thurston 40
26; North Eugene 7
49; South Eugene 13
41; Ashland 13
65; Eagle Point 20
20; Churchill 58
53; Ridgeview 33
47; Lebanon 41
45; Wilsonville 78
OFFENSE (9): Quarterback Trever Davis (5-10, 190, sr), left tackle Dawson Davis (6-2, 250, jr.), left guard Hunter Van Sickle (5-11, 245, sr.), right guard Gerritt Warner (6-0, 230, sr.), right tackle Jacob Memmott (6-4, 225, sr.), wide receiver Trevor Jaasko (6-1, 165, jr.), wide receiver Chase Sherer (6-1, 170, sr.), slotback Dawson Douglas (6-0, 180, jr.), running back Gavin Acrey (5-11, 180, sr.).
DEFENSE (6): Cornerback Gavin Acrey, safety Robert Amoson (6-0, 170, sr.), cornerback Bruce Cwiklinski (5-8, 165, sr.), linebacker Tyler Ennis (6-0, 190, sr.), outside linebacker James Ruth (6-0, 175, sr.), end Jacob Chenoweth (6-3, 215, sr.).
OTHER NOTABLES: Center Crayton Gillispie (5-10, 235, sr.), inside linebacker Brady Brock (5-11, 175, sr.), defensive end Joseph Jordahl (6-2, 215, so.), nose guard Isaiah Mays (6-2, 265, sr.), free safety Brady Eaton (6-1, 180, jr.), quarterback Blake Eaton (6-2, 180, jr.), running back Cameron Kramer (5-8, 160, jr.).
Sept. 6; at Wilsonville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13; WILLAMETTE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20; THURSTON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27; at North Bend, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4; NORTH EUGENE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10; at South Eugene, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18; ASHLAND, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25; at Eagle Point, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1; CHURCHILL, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8; League playoff, tba