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Crusaders hope to make success a habit

Coach Rick Sanson has a schedule designed to prepare for the playoffs.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Coach Rick Sanson has a schedule designed to prepare for the playoffs.

SEMINOLE -- After seeming to exist just to give opposing teams a week's respite, Keswick Christian got a taste last year of the success others had enjoyed at its expense.

Four years removed from their first game as a startup program, the Crusaders grew up. They went 10-2, won their first district title and playoff game, and advanced to the Class A region semifinal.

Hoping to prove last season was not a fairy tale, coach Rick Sanson tried to fashion a schedule that would not provide many automatic victories.

In the spring, Keswick played American Heritage, a state final four participant, and lost 62-0. In the regular-season opener, the Crusaders will play Fort Meade, which beat American Heritage in the playoffs last season and was the state runner-up.

Sanson said he made things tough because by the end of the season he wants his players to be ready for anything.

It was a formula that worked last year when Keswick lost soundly to Fort Meade, then reeled off 10 straight victories before losing in the playoffs.

"Playing that type of competition makes you better," Sanson said. "You get to see speed that we don't have in our district. It's a motivator for us to see where we need to go."

THROUGH THE AIR: Cris Schooley, who directed the third-highest scoring offense in the county last season, returns at quarterback.

Operating out of the shotgun, the senior will get a chance to throw more with the return of his top two receivers, Adam Eicher and Ben Wright.

Another player who figures to have the ball thrown his way is Michael Young, who moves up after leading the junior varsity in receptions.

ON THE GROUND: The reason the offense will travel more by air than land stems from the loss of Schooley's older brother, Chad, who rushed for 1,243 yards and scored 22 touchdowns as a senior.

Battling to replace Chad in Keswick's new one-back set are a promising pair of juniors, Brian Baxter and Ryan Carpentieri.

Up front, the Crusaders will be strong with Blake Halverson, Evan Tomlin and Greg Swanson paving the way for the running backs.

DEFENSE: Halverson is the mainstay on the line and Baxter is the leader among the linebackers, a group that includes Carpentieri and Earnest Smith. John Hornbeck returns at safety.

JUST FOR KICKS: Hornbeck will do the kicking and punting.

KESWICK CHRISTIAN

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Rick Sanson (fourth season, 17-15).

ASSISTANTS: Keith Baxter, Chuck Hodupp and Tim Eitel.

COLORS: Green and white.

STADIUM: Keswick Campus Field, 10101 54th Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

CLASS: A, District 8.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 2001.

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Santa Fe Catholic 27-12; lost to Evangelical Christian 52-21.

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