JOYCE — The Crescent Loggers will be heading into a new league setup, carrying with them the motto “feed the Beast.”
That “Beast” is star running back Noah Leonard, who in fact had a monster season for Crescent last year as a junior. And he’s apt to put up even bigger numbers this year as a senior as the Loggers’ bigtime quarterback last season, KC Spencer, graduated.
“As a coach, [Spencer] really spoiled me,” said head coach Brian Shimko. “You’re not going to have kids like that come through every year.”
Shimko said Spencer had the ability to see things on the field behind center that the coaches weren’t able to see, and exploit it. “He was like a fifth coach. Those are huge shoes to fill,” Shimko said. Spencer was also a big part of the Loggers’ defense, as he put up record-breaking numbers in interceptions in Crescent’s defensive backfield.
With no Spencer on the team, the offense will be run-heavy, which means Logger opponents will get a heavy dose of Leonard all season long.
That might mean some spectacular numbers for Leonard in 2018. Last season, Leonard only ran the ball a modest 103 times in 11 games, but he managed to rush for 1,220 yards, an amazing average of 11.84 yards per carry. Leonard also scored 23 touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 199 yards. It’s scary to think what he will do when he is the main focus of the offense.
“We’re going to be more of a run team this year,” Shimko said.
Leonard is also a big contributor on defense, where he made 139 tackles, including 55 unassisted, as a linebacker.
One of the biggest changes for Crescent is a change in league competition. The Loggers are moving to the new Northwest 1B League, West Division with games against Taholah, Wishkah Valley, Washington School for the Deaf, Tulalip, Oakville and Mary M. Knight.
This means more travel for Crescent, and no more games for the time being against North Olympic Peninsula rival Neah Bay, which is moving to a bigger 1B division. Shimko will miss those rivalry games.
“You want to be the best, you have to play the best,” Shimko said.
Behind Spencer and Leonard’s playmaking, Crescent went 6-5 last season, with some wild games all year, the craziest of which was a 78-64 season-opening loss to Tacoma Baptist. The Loggers were a force on offense, scoring more than 40 points eight times last season and more than 60 points five times. Even for eight-man football, that’s some explosive football. The Loggers made the postseason and played Neah Bay tough in the first round of the Quad-District playoffs before the Red Devils pulled away in the second half for a 30-12 win.
Crescent will be a very young team this year. In addition to Spencer, five other seniors graduated off last year (including Kyle Buchanan and Robert Cox, who were big contributors). The 2018 squad has four freshman and three eighth-graders on the 13-man preseason roster (eighth graders can play on eight-man high school football teams).
The Loggers will only have three seniors in Leonard, and linemen Kylan Scheid and Isiah Simpson, but Shimko said Crescent has been forced to play small and fast before.
“It’s a young team, but very athletic. We did it with small guys last year. You can do the job with little guys. You just need guys with heart and will,” Shimko said.
Scheid and Simpson are a pair of big players who will play offensive and defensive line. Also returning is Eric Emery, who is slotted to start at quarterback with the very, very big shoes of Spencer’s to fill. Shimko said if need be, Leonard might even line up behind center at QB.
Landen Buchanan, who got in some valuable playing time last year as an eighth-grader, is set at one wide receiver. “The other receiver we’re not sure yet,” said Shimko, though he expects youngsters Wyatt Lee, Brayden Emery and Timmy Ward to all compete for that spot.
Shimko said he’s emphasized conditioning with this year’s team through the spring and summer camps. He thinks Crescent might have won that 78-64 slugfest with Tacoma Baptist last year if the team had just been a little better conditioned.
As far as expectations, he said the Loggers will have the philosophy of winning the team’s first game of the year, a road game Aug. 31 against Chief Leschi.
“Our philosophy is win the first game. Then we’ll look at the next one,” Shimko said.
After the Chief Leschi game, the Loggers will get another tough test against Quilcene on Sept. 8 in a rivalry game against a North Olympic Peninsula opponent. They play Lyle/Wishram (from south-central Washington near The Dalles) in their first home game on Sept. 15.
Head coach: Brian Shimko
Last year: 6-5, second in North Olympic League, lost to Neah Bay in district playoffs
Key contributors: Noah Leonard, RB/LB; Eric Emery, QB/OLB; Kylan Scheid DL/OL; Isiah Simpson DL/OL.
Expected team strength: Senior running back Noah Leonard, who gained 1,220 yards and scored 23 TDs last season.
Question mark: Youth, seven players on roster either freshmen or eighth-graders. Replacing QB KC Spencer.
Game to watch: First league games against Taholah and Wishkah Valley on Sept. 21 and Sept. 29.