Last season was a breakout campaign for the Cornerstone Christian Academy Crusaders, as they earned the first district championship in the school’s history.
The Crusaders of coach Bobby Johnson were eliminated in the opening round of the Texas Christian Athletic Fellowship six-man playoffs, finishing with a 9-2 record. But it was only the third season of varsity football for the Crusaders, who were 6-6 in 2012 and 8-4 in 2011.
The Crusaders’ new coach has installed new schemes on both offense and defense.
“I think people will find that it will be a big change,” said Chris Eikenhorst, a former Happy Hill Academy coach.
He believes his players will benefit from the improved size and strength gained from what he called an “intense” offseason weightlifting and strength program.
“Utilizing our speed and strength, we should be able to put quite a few points on the board,” Eikenhorst said. “We’ll be the best conditioned team in the district, if not all of TCAF.”
There should be about a dozen returning lettermen, he said, and six are seniors.
His offensive philosophy is to keep things simple – go with what’s working on offense, and to “hit ‘em hard and hit ‘em all four quarters.”
The Crusaders will start the regular season on the road against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year – Trinity Christian Willow Park.
The next week they’ll play at Nazarene Christian, the squad that’s now led by Johnson. He had been the Crusaders’ head coach for their first three varsity football seasons.
Competing in TCAF Division 2, District 1, the top contender is expected to be Azle Christian, a state finalist in 2013.
“We’ll compete with them,” Eichenhorst said. “We’re going to make a run.”
Another highlight on the schedule is a nondistrict contest Sept. 26 at home against defending TCAF Division I state champion Lucas Christian.
Josh Beard is a senior running back with the ability to stop on a dime and change directions, according to Eichenhorst. Beard will also be used as a receiver coming out of the backfield.
Tanner Ives is a junior quarterback who will run the spread offense when the Crusaders are in that mode.
“He has a great arm, and he’ll have a run-pass option,” the coach said of Ives. “He’s got great speed and is very fluid and has great vision.”
The quarterback under center in the Crusaders’ tight offensive formations will be senior Zac Olsen.
“I feel confident with ball security with him,” Eichenhorst said. “He has great play action and fakes, and he’s a tremendous lead blocker.”
In the spread, Olsen will move to either up-back or running back.
Senior Logan Weems is returning to play center, after playing running back for one season. Weems had been a first-team all-state center as a sophomore.
“He runs great routes and he is deceptively quick,” the coach said.
Senior Jared Rudd will be at running back in either the spread or the tight formation.
“He’s a downhill runner,” Eichenhorst said. “He hits the hole; if someone is there, he’ll run over them. And he can also catch the ball.
Senior Dylan Overstreet will play some at tight end and also as a wide receiver. He’s tall and has long arms that come in handy if a pass is up for grabs.
Among Cornerstone’s top defensive performers are Beard at safety, Weems at middle linebacker, Olsen at either outside linebacker or end, Rudd at outside linebacker and Overstreet at end.
Olsen is “one of the best open-field tacklers,” Eichenhorst said.
“Weems and Rudd are my headhunters.”
Eichenhorst added that Overstreet “is very solid, very technical. He doesn’t get out of position, and turns everything back in.”
The starting job at the safety spot against spread offenses has not been determined.
Weems did a good job as both kicker and punter for the Crusaders last year and should be in position to do the same in 2014, according to Eichenhorst.
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Date Opponent Time
Aug. 29 at Trinity Christian TBA
Sept. 5 at Nazarene Christian TBA
Sept. 12 Tyler Heat 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 Open
Sept. 26 Lucas Christian 7:30 p.m.
* Oct. 3 at Huston Academy TBA
* Oct. 10 Azle Christian 7:30 p.m.
* Oct. 17 Weatherford Christian 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 Open
* Oct. 31 Latter Rain 7 :30 p.m.
* TCAF, Div. II, District 1 games.