As a freshman, Coy Cronk learned what it would take to continue the legacy of linebackers at Central Catholic.
On more than one occasion, he walked by the weight room after practice and noticed then-senior leader Ross Corcoran putting in extra workouts.
“He stepped up every game we needed him to be a captain,” Cronk said. “He did twice the workouts in the weight room. After every linebacker session we had, he always mentored me and made sure I knew where my head was at — and I was becoming a better linebacker.”
Apparently it worked, because Cronk was an Indiana Football Coaches Association All-State choice last season. He’ll pair with another product of Corcoran’s legacy — his younger brother, Joe — as the inside linebacker in the Knights’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
The duo will lead the defense, calling signals and helping maintain the physical presence that has made Central Catholic one of the state’s small-school football powers since Cronk and Corcoran were in elementary school.
“It’s normally our job to set the tone for the game,” Joe Corcoran said of the defense. “If the offense doesn’t get the best start, it’s our job to set a tone, kind of state how we’re going to play the game.”
Cronk followed Ross Corcoran’s work ethic, and it paid off with 127 tackles last season. Knights coach Kevin O’Shea jokes that the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Cronk “shaved for the first time over spring break.”
What he’s really saying is, this kid’s still growing. O’Shea also said expectations have risen following Cronk’s breakthrough season.
“Coy has that killer instinct,” Joe Corcoran said. “He sees the ball and you pretty much know if he even lays a shoulder on the guy, he’s tackling him.”
At 6-2, 195 pounds, Corcoran can’t boast Cronk’s size. Yet he piled up 116 tackles last season and provided intangibles that can’t be tallied.
“You know what you’re going to get from Joe every single game,” Cronk said of the player O’Shea referred to as “Mr. Consistent.” “He’s always going to bring a bulldog attitude onto the field. He’s going to sacrifice his body, take up blockers and make a tackle when he gets his chance.
“Joe always seems to keep the morale of the team up on the sidelines. He’s that guy who keeps the younger guys into it, or gets in the defensive linemen’s face when they need it. He’s more of our captain.”
Central Catholic Knights
Head coach: Kevin O’Shea (77-5 in five seasons at Central Catholic; 177-68 in 20 seasons overall)
2013 results: 9-2 (6-0 Hoosier Conference); lost to Tipton 28-24 in sectional semifinals
Class: 2A, Sectional 35 (Benton Central, Cass, Delphi, North Putnam, Southmont, Taylor, Tipton)
Sectional championships: 8 (1976, ’89, ’99, 2005, 2009-12)
Regional championships: 6 (1976, ’99, 2009-12)
Semistate championships: 5 (1999, 2009-12)
State championships: 6 (1976, ’99, 2009-12)
Stadium: Paul J. LaRocca Field, 2410 S. 9th Street
Returning starters (offense/defense): 7/6
Offense: Run and shoot
Rushing: Jackson Anthrop (5-10, 175, jr., FB/S) 39-150 yards, 5 TD
Receiving: Anthrop 72-677 yards, 3 TD
Tackles: Coy Cronk (6-5, 245, jr., LB/OL) 127
Interceptions: Adam Lovell (5-8, 145, jr., WR/CB) 4
Others to watch: Joe Corcoran (6-2, 195, sr., ILB); Grant Vogt (5-11, 180, sr., DL); Luke Fusiek (6-1, 150, jr., WR/DB); Sam Milazzo (6-0, 160, so., K); Luke Schrader (5-9, 135, so., WB/DB); Ben Metzinger (5-9, 150, so., WB/OLB); Ben Tharp (6-2, 180, so., WR/DB); Riz Baguisa (5-10, 210, jr., OL/DL); Ethan Schrader (6-1, 180, jr., OLB); Robbie Eberhard (6-3, 285, jr., OL/DL).
Outlook: This is the first Central Catholic team since 2009 that isn’t coming off of a state championship. The Knights are young but battle-tested and want to return to their customary deep state tournament run.
The versatile and athletic Anthrop shifts from wingback to fullback to replace Joe Smith. New quarterback Avery Denhart can utilize a fleet of proven receivers, including Fusiek (34-595 yards, 5 TD), Luke Schrader (34-352, 3 TD) and Tharp (17-218). The offensive line features just one senior starter, but everyone else up front is a returning starter.
O’Shea believes he has his biggest defensive line in at least three years. Beguisa moves from linebacker to nose tackle, and David Sanchez has converted from offensive tackle to defensive end opposite Vogt. They’ll attempt to funnel ballcarriers to inside linebacker linchpins Cronk and Corcoran, with four players competing for the two outside spots. Anthrop and Lovell return to starting spots in the secondary.