Former Bulldogs player Kevin Sipes begins his second season in charge of the Crestline High School football program. The 1995 alumnus hopes rekindle the spirit that propelled the blue and white to the OHSAA playoffs in 2005.
Crestline finished 8-2 in the regular season a decade ago and lost in the first round of the Div. VI, Reg. 22 playoffs to Hopewell-Loudon, 38-7. The Bulldogs’ best record since then was a 4-6 mark in 2007.
The Bulldogs finished 0-10 last season, which included an 0-8 record in the Northern 10 Athletic Conference.
“We had a lot of injuries early,” Sipes said. “The small number of players on the roster combined with the injuries amounted to big problems for us.”
Seniors Nate Coffman and Codi Cooke were among the receiving leaders in the conference. Coffman had 49 receptions, 516 yards and four touchdowns. Cooke finished with 17 catches, 327 yards and three touchdowns. Both graduated in May along with other two-way players Sam Blaising (WR/DB), Jacob Trent (WR/DB) and Austin Norwood (FB/MLB) and Michael Forwith and Jordan Carver.
Quarterback Chase Cooke was third in the Northern 10 with 1,314 passing yards and 10 touchdowns, according to the Northern 10 website. However, Cooke transferred to Galion in the offseason.
Despite the significant losses, Sipes said the 2015 Bulldogs will benefit from experienced players returning to the team.
“We have our full offensive line and defensive line returning,” Sipes said. “We should be strong up front.”
All five returning linemen are two-way players. Timmy Tompkins (5-11, 195, Jr.) anchors the offensive line at center. Kamin Gearhart (6-2, 280, Jr.) will be the left tackle and Nate Weyant (6-1, 302, Jr.) will play left guard. On the right side of the line, Brandon Evans (6-4, 250, Jr.) holds down the tackle spot and Aaron Blubaugh (6-1, 275, Jr.) will be the guard.
Junior J.R. Wolfe (6-0, 180) takes over as the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs in 2015. Joining Wolfe in the offensive backfield are J.C. Clark (5-10, 190, Jr.) at running back and Connor Kurtzman (5-10, 190, Sr.) at fullback.
“We want to run the ball. J.C. Clark should give us a good ground attack,” Sipes said. “J.R. Wolfe will be a good fit at QB and make better decisions than last year’s QB.”
Wolfe’s receiving corps features wideouts Chandler Gaskill (5-9, 160, Jr.), Tyler Sipes (5-8, 140, Jr.) and Bailey Woodard (5-6, 135, Jr.), along with tight end Jordan Sipes (6-4, 185, Jr.).
The new season brings with it a move to a new conference. Crestline is the newest member of the Mid-Buckeye Conference, joining Danville, Loudonville and Lucas as the only schools in the MBC that have football programs.
The 2015 season opens Aug. 28 with a home game against Mapleton.
Reach Carter at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048, or on Twitter @ACGalionSports.