2018 Gridiron: Paris Coyotes
Total Returning Lettermen: 12
2017 Overall Record: 2-8
Head Coach: Gary Crusha
Years at School: 8
Record at School: 33-44
Overall Record: 58-97
‘YOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND: EXPERIENCED, INVIGORATED CORE POSITIONS PARIS FOR A REVERSAL OF FOOTBALL FORTUNES
CRUSHA-T: Turning the page on a forgettable 2017 campaign likely proved cathartic for Gary Crusha and his Coyotes; because just about nothing went broke right for this program from the jump. With a roster numbering in the teens after its expected Starting Quarterback was forced to “retire” from football due to concussion issues, Paris’ mission became survival, not winning games. The situation forced Coach Crusha’s hand in unexpected roster composition ways, including repurposing Offensive Lineman Breck Hancock to Quarterback in August. The supporting cast? More age appropriately that of a Junior Varsity team. It seemed a scenario doomed from the start for failure. To their credit, however, the young Coyotes showed moxie and spunk in finding two straight wins out of the gate against admittedly struggling Harrisburg and Salisbury squads. One the calendar turned to September, however, the coach predictably turned back into a pumpkin with eight straight losses to end the year, a stretch that saw the Coyotes score just 60 total points while giving up 39 a night on average.
TOUGH TIMES BREED TOUGHER MEN: As bleak as things got in 2017, Gary Crusha is quick to point out that his kids never stopped playing hard or giving effort. And now they will have a chance to continue doing that on far more equal footing with their Lewis and Clark Conference brethren. Paris returns a dozen lettermen and even more impressively, seventeen total starters from that squad. Dues paid/growing pains behind them, the Coyotes have both the window, and now the experienced weaponry to be stand as one of the most radically improved football teams in the Tri-States for 2018.
RETURN OF THE MAC: Perhaps the most promising silver lining for the Coyotes moving forward is the return of an Offensive Line that not only returns intact, but is also comprised of some intriguing young blockers. Senior Ethan Redington (6’ 215lbs) will center that unit once again and is a strong, aggressive young man who had some really nice moments. If he can drop his base and consistently play lower, he’s got a chance to use that strength to perhaps All Conference level avail. Junior Mac Baladenski (5’9” 240lbs) will be a three year starter this season. He’s got tremendous natural strength and a relentless motor. Senior Devin Brandl (6’ 250lbs) and Sophomore Aiden Forrest (6’2” 275lbs) bring enviable size here. I love Brandl’s brute strength as I saw him deliver one of the best hits of the season last Fall in planting Blake Hays on a Punt Return against Monroe City; which speaks to the tone of needed toughness he sets here. Defenders will be hard pressed to get off his shoulder pads when he sinks in to drive block. The real breakout blocker here could be great looking Sophomore Devin Miller, who at 6’3” and 245 pounds, has all the tools to be a true hammer on this unit. Fellow Tenth Grader Resse Barton started his career as a Running Back, but could end up being a speed guard here amongst all this nifty size. It’s a really blue collar group here and one that should easily help improve on the 1245 total rushing yards the Coyotes generated a year ago.
BERREY GOOD: Coinciding with the maturation of the Line, the other critical offensive development for Paris last Fall was the emergence of Kaison Berrey as a future Feature Back. His 2017 numbers weren’t earth-shattering (126 carries, 453 yards, six touchdowns) but his tape is really strong. While he’s just 5’9” and 165 pounds, Kaison showed not only a willingness to run up inside the tackles without hesitation; but also a great deal of elusiveness even in tight quarters. Berrey is fast enough to break way from most Linebackers and Defensive Backs, but what I really like about him is how quickly he starts and stops, feinting and stutter-stepping his way past defenders who struggle to draw a bead on him. He seems to feel contact coming and instinctively cut back and forth across the field to maximize runs. He’s slippery as a runner and on more than one occasion showed great ability to regain his balance after an initial hit and continue to gain ground. He’s got terrific hands as well, provided Paris develops a QB to utilize him. He’s also a valued weapon in the Return Game, capping his Sophomore Season with an 81 yard touchdown off of a kickoff as well. Bank on really good Junior Year numbers for Kaison and a significant rise in visibility.
RUNINNG WITH THE PACK: Analyzing the rest of the Skills Position equation for the Coyotes is a trickier proposition. Gary Crusha hasn’t revealed much about his plans at Quarterback. And there’s not a kid on the Roster with a Varsity pass attempt to his credit, let alone a listed Quarterback at this point. Andrew Young (6’ 175lbs) got a start at Fullback last Fall, but received just one varsity carry. Dennis Polite, a 6’ 200 pound Senior, could also be in the mix here a Fullback. Nick Painter caught three passes as a Junior and averaged 22 yards per catch. He’s a versatile athlete with multi-positional ability. Don’t sleep on Junior Alex Green here, who is a 5’9” 145lb potential dynamo to add to the attack as well.
BRECKLESS: With eight starters returning, it would seem a reasonable assumption that the Coyote Defense should be stingier in 2018. That is until you try accounting for just what Paris lost in those three Seniors. Strong Safety Brandon Williams was an All-Conference Selection. Linebacker Breck Hancock was an All-Stater and spent the last four years of his life building one of the most productive resumes of any tackler in Missouri High School History. Graduation basically robbed Paris of its two Defensive Cornerstoneson a unit that wasn’t overly successful as a collective to begin with. There’s considerable work to be done here.
Gary Crusha does feel, however, that his Defensive Front can be very good if everything falls into place. The Coyotes return three of their four Linebackers after the “Brecks-It” in Andrew Young, Ethan Redington, and Resse Barton. Young averaged a very tidy 6.6 tackles per game in nine starters. Reddington bullied his was to 54 tackles and a pair of stops for loss. Reese Barton flashed nifty big play DNA in his Frosh debut, with three stops for loss and a Quarterback Sack among his 28 tackles. Dennis Polite, who had 18 stops in spot duty, feels like the likely newcomer here. Honestly, this looks to be a very talented group. How they grow to amplify leadership and and consistency, in the absence of having an All State Safety net around to bail them out, is the tipping point here.
Up front, Devin Brandl fits well here as an ideal Tackle in the Coyote 4-4 scheme. He’s tremendously active and mobile (46 stops) and a potential menace collapsing the middle of an offensive line with his brutish play. Devin had three stops for loss and a pair of quarterback sacks last year and his withering assault on Linemen should create opportunities for the Linebackers behind him. If you are betting on the next breakout Defensive star to emerge for Paris, Brandl seems the smart money play. Devin Miller and Mac Baladneski are going to reprise their roles as Bookends at Defensive End, bringing more physicality and size to the mix.
Kaison Berrey and Nick Painter are back to pick up the slack for Williams graduation in the Secondary. Berrey bagged 46 tackles a year ago and snared a pair of interceptions. Painter made two fumble recoveries and broke up a pass as part of his 2017 resume. Alex Green seems the heir apparent to inherit Williams role moving forward.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: Once again, the August portion of the schedule is favorable and the addition of a rebuilding Louisiana program to the slate portends improvement in the win column. Just how far these guys can climb, relative to the top end of the Lewis and Clark Conference, however remains to be seen. For a team with so many proven pieces in place, it sure seems like Paris still has a lot left to prove from a continuity standpoint. Can a defense that lost its two best players improve collectively without them? Will there be enough ancillary offensive threat to keep teams from selling out Defensively on Kaison Berrey? Who the heck plays Quarterback? In the July vacuum, these are really hard issues to address with much certainty. I’ll have a better real feel for the Coyotes after our Barnstorm Visit. My guy feels like there are at least four potential wins on the regular season slate, which would be a 200% improvement. And I think this program needs such positive traction after last year’s numbers struggle. Something positive to get the young kids back excited about their chance to someday run behind the Police Car down into the Football Valley that is Warbritton Field on a Friday Night. Northeast Missouri Football culture needs Paris to be viable and energized for the good of the culture alone. This group of Coyotes has inherited that challenge and by all accounts, their work ethics and dedication, even in the face of adversity, seems equal to the task. So we will lean enthusiastically here and predict a reasonable return to form this Fall and star turns for the rising Kaison Berrey and Devin Brandl on the individual front. The District is obviously a nightmare and nothing comes easy in the L&C but who knows; with a bit of early working momentum and some gritty kids rowing the boat, Paris could well be the comeback story of 2018.