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Junior class holds key for Crusaders

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Keswick Christian enters its fourth season as a varsity program, and there is cautious optimism around the small campus.

The Crusaders have a strong junior class, most of whom played as freshmen on the school's undefeated junior varsity team.

Seniors Chad Schooley and Kirk Hoffman, the only players who have been with the program since the beginning, are talented leaders who play on both sides of the ball.

There is size.

There is speed.

There is hope.

"I hesitate to say that we would be the team to beat (in the district)," Keswick coach Rick Sanson said.

"I would still think Shorecrest is the team because of their tradition. But we're getting better. We're optimistic."

Although Keswick is only four years into varsity football, it already has gone through a rebuilding process.

After the inaugural season in 1998, the Crusaders graduated 12 players and had to start over.

In 1999, Sanson kept his freshmen on the junior varsity while the varsity took its lumps in a 2-8 season.

Now Sanson expects to reap the benefits from the '99 JV team.

"The biggest thing is getting their confidence back after going 5-5 last season," Sanson said.

"(The juniors) are used to winning. I feel we should be more competitive."

THROUGH THE AIR: Junior Cris Schooley starts at quarterback for the second consecutive season.

He was the junior varsity quarterback as a freshman and won his only varsity game that year.

Last season, Schooley threw for 1,509 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Senior tight end Kevin McClure (6 feet 2, 188 pounds) and junior wide receiver Adam Eicher will be the main targets. ON THE GROUND: Senior Chad Schooley gained 961 yards on 145 carries last season and will be the main ballcarrier. He will run behind a big offensive line led by Hoffman, who is 6-1, 280 pounds. Hoffman also is accomplished at judo.

Senior center Dan Kirkconnell and junior Blake Halverson anchor the offensive line.

DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! Hoffman will start on the defensive line.

Chad Schooley also will play cornerback.

"I promised him if he got bigger, he could play defense," Sanson said. "He worked hard in the summer and got up to 180. He held up his end of the bargain."

Sophomore Brian Baxter and junior Greg Swanson are the top linebackers. Chad Schooley will play free safety.

JUST FOR KICKS: Junior John Hornbeck returns as the punter and placekicker for a second season.

KESWICK CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Rick Sanson, fourth season (12-18, 28-28 in sixth season overall) ASSISTANTS: Bob Anderson, Keith Baxter, Cam Beall, Mike Benson, Tim Eitel, Steve Halverson, Chuck Hodupp

COLORS: Green and white

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

CLASS: A, District 8

PLAYOFF HISTORY: None

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