2018 Gridiron: Routt Rockets
2017 Overall Record: 2-7
Head Coach: Barry Creviston
Years at School: 1
Record at School: 0-0
CREVY RUNS DEEP: ROCKETS MAKE SIGNIFICANT OFF-SEASON SPLASH WITH NEW CO-OP, BACK-TO-THE FUTURE COACHING HIRE
VOLITILITY IN THE ‘VILLE: Where do I begin? Routt Catholic experienced one of the most tumultuous off-seasons in recent memory. It started with then Rocket Head Coach Heath Wilson, on the heels of a two win 2017 campaign, attempting to infuse new life in his long suffering program by piecing together a football cooperative with Springfield Lutheran. The move was intended to better stock a Rocket Roster that had hovered in the teens in Varsity Participation for the better part of the last half decade. Well intentioned as it might have been, the Routt/Lutheran union met with immediate pockets of resistance and failed to receive the required number of yes votes needed to press forward in taking it to league and IHSA ratification. Wilson would not give up, however, and found a powerful ally in Camp Point Central Athletic Director Matt Long, who chided his WIVC Conference brethren into remembering that high school athletics, at its core, was about offering participation opportunities for young people; not for high school coaches to protect their football fiefdoms. On second attempt, North Greene flipped from a “nay” to a “yea” as then Spartan Coach Barry Creviston did his old employer, what seemed at the time, an unironic solid. The plot, however, would quickly thicken. Shortly after winning the battle to improve his program’s prospects, Heath Wilson announced he was leaving to become the new head coach at Villa Grove. Routt Catholic was forced into an always daunting late Spring/Early Summer coaching search. A surprisingly impressive group of names were linked to the Rocket vacancy. And when the dust cleared (pause for dramatic effect) the aforementioned Barry Creviston was hired to return to where it all started with his coaching career. He resigned at North Greene 24 hours later (and not without a few hurt feelings in Spartan Country) and landed back in Jacksonville as both Athletic Director and Varsity Head Football Boss to helm the newly empowered co-op he himself saved with his vote while at a rival school. WIVC Conspiracy Theorists, rejoice!
Confused? You won’t be after this next episode of WIVC Soap..
(Author Post Script: I had to pause here in the writing of this introductory paragraph just to let my fingers rest and my mind boggle at just how incredibly bizarre a soap opera this turned out to be. Seriously, this sounds like the pilot pitch for a horrible Netflix Drama)
THE CREVY BELLS: Bizarre off-season plot twists that got us to this moment in time aside, the Barry Creviston hire feels like a fit at Routt Catholic. His teams play a fun brand of Offensive Football, which could induce more kid from out of his own hallways and back into helmets. He’s cocky enough to make a compelling sales pitch to the Springfield Lutheran kids to give football a try. (There are currently a half dozen Lutheran commits pledged to play in 2018) And he’s going to walk in the door from day one talking openly about restoring Routt as a Top of the North contender again, recent history be darned. Barry also has got 15 starters back to work with, including a pretty darned good set of Quarterback prospects who fit right into the Creviston Business model. And in that spirit.
UPTOWN PLUNK GONNA GIVE IT TO YOU: All things considered, I though Jared Plunk did a marvelous job running Heath Wilson’s offense last season, thrown into that mix when on short notice when Hunter Chumley opted to narrow his concentration to Baseball and Basketball. Jared is one of the most athletic kids in the WIVC and his ability to roll around, buy time, and create deeper opportunity for his receivers proved a real boon. Plunk proved to be a decent enough deliverer of the football, despite his unpolished edges as a QB, and he was a holy terror when breaking the pocket. I’d argue that Jared Plunk’s biggest drawback as a QB last Fallwas that he actually didn’t have a Jared Plunk to catch his passes. When you have a weapon like this that is so dangerous in space, it almost feels like you are doing him a disservice relegating him to Quarterback duty. In that spirit, Junior Gabe Rossi’s progress at both quarterback and at slot receiver needs to be monitored this Summer. Barry Creviston tells me he’s made great improvement in both facets of the game, which could give the Routt offense, at the very least, more mix and match personnel opportunities. Historically, Creviston has been a large canvas guy when it comes to running an offense, should bode well for both Plunk and Rossi moving forward. I also tend to think Junior Alex Cosgriff’s star is significantly on the rise. At 5’7” and 170 pounds, he’s neither the biggest or fastest kid in the world. What he is however, is the strongest slot receiver in the Tri-States, with a 400 pound squat and the ability to run through Linebackers like a fullback. To wit, running that iso screen for the kid might well be the Rockets best short yardage scenario as of this writing because he’s like a miniature locomotive in space. Weirdly, he’s also got great ability to get off the ground and make plays against bigger defensive backs. There’s some quick twitch muscle fiber there but I also think Alex has incredible timing on the jump ball. It’s not often you have kid his size who is a “let him go up and get it threat” but Cosgriff fits that bill. He’s are really different, but really fun hybrid piece for this offense.
THE REMIX TO OFFENSIVE IGNITION: The best offensive incarnations of Rocket Football during Creviston’s previous tenure with Routt all featured a dynamic running back. This year’s roster seems to offer an abundance of options on that front. Jason Birdsell is a 180 pound Junior with terrific versatility. We saw him essentially line-up as a One-Back, a Wing Back, and a Slot Receiver last season. He’s a very physical runner (and blocker) who keeps those legs churning; a very capable power runner with combo quickness. Senior Cole Evans is a long strider with the proven ability to pinball of contact. Basketball standout Dylan Marshall is returning to the gridiron for his Senior Year and will help make this mix more dynamic. Cade Bilbruck, who has grown to 6’1” and 190 pounds, will try to translate his Baseball talents to the gridiron as well. That is four multi-positional options in play. Whether one of these guys emerges from amongst the others to become the Feature Back or whether Creviston employs them by-committee remains to be seen. But it’s definitely a interesting assortment. Moreover, Routt Backs will have the luxury or running behind what Creviston thinks is the most athletic Offensive Front in the WIVC. Seniors Lucas May, Collin Beddingfield, and Jared Mogg (5’11” 280 lbs) form the bedrock of the Offensive Line. Beddingfield was a Second Team All-Conference selection as a Junior at Center. He’s just 190 pounds but super mobile and one of the most reliable snappers you will find anywhere in Tri-State Football. Junior Clayton Costello and Sophomore Jonah Hutton will help add a dimension of mobility up front as the Rockets profile as a Speed on Speed offense. Overall, I suspect this re-armed Routt squad to pose a far more prolific attack in 2018.
FIXING THE FIXABLE: If the Rockets do aspire to climb the WIVC North standings and radically improve on last Fall’s 2-7 finish, the Defense is going to need to be revamped. Routt surrendered 42 points per game last Fall and oft looked like a unit running on fumes. Better overall roster depth should help there. Base level experience looms as plus as well as the Rockets get to work with eight returning starters from a year ago. The graduations of Ryan Beckman and David Jensen are major blows to the Defensive Front. That said, the Rockets have the assets here to be incredibly mobile and reactive, if undersized on the D-Line. Jonah Hutton showed flashes of impact play making ability as a Freshman. Collin Beddingfield is a guy who can get off the football and into an opponent’s backfield in a hurry. Sleeper name to watch here is Junior Jacob Peters as an Edge Rusher. See also his tremendous Quarterback Sack against West Central at the end of the year. Returning WIVC North Honorable Mention pick Gabe Rossi should be an important tone setter here at Linebacker. Cole Evans has great potential to rise at Outside Linebacker and really solidify that level of the defense. As of this writing, the Secondary appears to be the strength of the unit, with the returns of Jacob Peters at Free Safety and Alex Cosgriff at Corner. There are quality pieces in place. It’s time here for the whole to at least equal the sum of the parts.
THE DUERR DIAGNOSIS: First and foremost, Routt Catholic Football feels like it is in a more promising place overall than it was a year ago at this time. With the Lutheran pipeline now open, I would hope we never again have to reckon with the “Will the Rockets have enough bodies to field a team” drama that seemed to crop up a various times during Heath Wilson’s tenure. And whatever your personal feelings about Barry Creviston might be, you can’t argue that he’s had success, that he knows the dynamics of small school Parochial Football in Illinois, and that his “unique personality” is somewhere along the way going to rub someone the wrong way and add another layer of intrigue to the always entertaining WIVC North Football ecosystem. See also Week One of the 2018 campaign, which as fate would have it, delivers Creviston’s jilted former employer North Greene to England Field for a spicy little opener. That said, the man is a coach, not a conjurer of instant miracles and the Routt refurbishment is going to take some time to get cooking. The North slate is as brutal as ever and Routt’s WIVC South crossover games include Carrollton and Calhoun this Fall. The Rockets could be a measurably better football team than they were in 2017 and still struggle to surpass last season’s two win threshold. Provided the Rocket Staff can get that Defense tilted back right, I actually like Routt to win at least three. And they’ve got enough firepower to put a real scare into one of the Conference Elites somewhere along the line. I would think that a really good jump start into a much brighter Gridiron Tomorrow in The “Ville. Would seem Rocket Football is in very capable hands yet again.