Knox County at Paris FNF Week 4
|8 / 22||Schuyler County||Home||Win||38 - 7|
|8 / 29||Mark Twain||Away||Loss||19 - 32|
|9 / 5||North Shelby||Away||Win||55 - 6|
|9 / 12||Knox County||Home||Win||60 - 18|
|9 / 19||Westran||Away||Loss||7 - 47|
|9 / 26||Fayette||Home||Win||39 - 14|
|10 / 3||Slater||Home||Win||57 - 0|
|10 / 10||Marceline||Away||Loss||0 - 12|
|10 / 17||Salisbury||Home||Loss||0 - 16|
|10 / 24||Putnam County||Away||Win||57 - 8|
|10 / 31||South Shelby||Away||Loss||18 - 56|
Paris is coming off a 6-5 season and is hoping to carry that momentum in 2014. After four years at the school, Head Coach Gary Crusha has a program in place and players seem to be responding. Look for the program to make more progress this year. Coach Crusha seemed please overall with last season.
"We were much improved in most aspects of the game, we were a passing team that put a lot of pressure on defenses," Coach Crusha said. "Defensively were improved, we did a better job pursuing the football and tackling. We were young and return several key players, hopefully we can take the next step forward and contend with the powerhouses in our conference."
Quarterback Kyle Popkes (6-1, 185) is back for his senior season and wants to make it a memorable one after coming off one of the best seasons in school history. Popkes threw for nearly 2,700 yards last season and 33 touchdowns in 2013 on his way to being named to the All- District team. Surely it scares opponents to think he could be even better this year after working all off-season. If Popkes can have another season like last season, they'll talk about him around Paris for a long time.
Popkes' favorite targets figure to be senior wide receiver Slater Stone (6-2, 185) and junior wide receiver Laine Forrest (5-10, 160). Stone had 71 receptions, for 1,192 yards and 13 touchdowns, good for All-State, All- District and All-Conference honors. The versatile Forrest had 35 catches for 557 yards and 9 touchdowns on his way to being named All-District and he carried the ball 25 times 211 yards and a score. They certainly make one of the best receiving pairings in the conference.
Paris will have a fairly inexperienced running attack. Fullback Tucker Gruber (5-9, 175), a junior, ran the ball 25 times for 90 yards last season. He will get some more carries this year. Sophomores Jacob Wolfe (5-10, 155) along with talented freshman Brett Miller (5-8, 155), should also carry the rock, too.
Up front, Paris returns four starters to the offensive line: August Hayhurst (6-1, 230), Austin Coffman (6-0, 170), Dylan Langerud (6-0, 215) and junior Briar Hancock (6-1, 220). Another junior, Mike Ensor (6-0, 235), will round out the offensive line. Coach Crusha is counting on the guys up front to be leaders on and off the field.
"We return our main weapons on offense," Coach Crusha said. "You will expect us to throw the ball again this year. We will put a lot of pressure on defenses."
Like many high school squads, Paris has plenty of two-way players. Slater Stone will start at free safety, where he excelled last season, bringing home 61 tackles and four interceptions. Forrest will play free safety, where he recorded 34 tackles and five interceptions, while Austin Coffmann will return to cornerback where he played well in 2013.
Tucker Gruber will lead the linebacking corps after recording 18 tackles last season. He worked hard in the weight room this winter is looking to have a big year on both sides of the ball.
The defensive line will be anchored by Dylan Langerud, August Hayhurst and Briar Hancock. Langerud had 15 tackles last season, while Hayhurst added 39 tackles and three sacks. Hancock also had three sacks to go along with 37 tackles.
"We are more experienced and stronger up front," Coach Crusha said. "I think we are going to make vast improvements on defense this year. We have to if we want to improve as a team."
Coach Crusha seems to want his players to genuinely enjoy the short time they're able to play high school football. "I want our players to enjoy their experiences while they have the opportunity," he said. "I want them to strive to be the best they can be and to leave everything on the field each Friday night.
"We are excited in Paris, we feel like we have put in a lot of work in the off-season to help our team overcome some of the weaknesses we had last year."
Pigskin's Pick: 7-2