Last season was less than ideal for the Catholic Crusaders, as the team finished 4-6 and failed to make the playoffs.
But the goals, expectations and plan of action will not change for the Crusaders and head coach Greg Seibert, who enters his 11th season at Catholic.
“We want to be a playoff contender and we want to host a playoff game here at Catholic in November,” Seibert said. “We want to be in position to make a run at the end of the season.”
While the Crusaders saw the majority of their offensive production come through the pass game last year, quarterback Z’Khari Blocker has been working on timing with a new receiving corps after Catholic watched a sensational senior trio of wide receivers graduate in May.
“Graduation was a little tough for me … watching three Division I receivers walk across the stage,” said Seibert, referring to Antwain Adams, Quan Moorer and Daniel Byrd, who combined for 2,200 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns. “But we still have a great nucleus of kids. We’ve returned five offensive linemen. Our secondary is predominately returners. We’ve got a great group of younger kids and they seem to be headed in the right direction.”
The Crusaders are looking forward to their kick-off classic game, facing perhaps the toughest team in the Panhandle, the Niceville Eagles.
“Our goal is to be prepared for that game, first,” Seibert said. “We really think that’s the only way to adequately approach our schedule. If you look ahead at all, you won’t be prepared for what’s right in front of you.”
Seibert said that the Crusaders have added to their coaching staff, including Qu’darius Ford who finished his career at defensive back last season at the University of South Alabama.
“I’m excited about the staff, (athletic director) coach (Richard) LaBounty and Sister Kiersten have been very supportive of our football program,” Seibert said. “We’ve been able to add Terry Dawkins to coach our inside linebackers. Qu’Darius will coach our corners. Marquis Sumler (2011 Catholic football grad) is now our running backs coach.”
13 in 13 series
•Today: Catholic Crusaders
•Sunday, Aug. 9: Escambia Gators
•Monday, Aug. 10: Gulf Breeze Dolphins
•Tuesday, Aug. 11: Jay Royals
•Wednesday, Aug. 12: Milton Panthers
•Thursday, Aug. 13: Navarre Raiders
•Friday, Aug. 14: Northview Chiefs
•Saturday, Aug. 15: Pace Patriots
•Sunday, Aug. 16: Pensacola Tigers
•Monday, Aug. 17: Pine Forest Eagles
•Tuesday, Aug. 18: Tate Aggies
•Wednesday, Aug. 19: Washington Wildcats
•Thursday, Aug. 20: West Florida Jaguars
•Sunday, Aug. 23: Super Seniors
Catholic High Crusaders (4-6 last season)
at Gulf Breeze
at Florida High*
at West Florida
*—Denotes District 1-3A game.
Aug. 29 lost to Navarre 31-21; Sept. 5 lost to Pine Forest 36-34; Sept. 12 lost to Pensacola 25-17; Sept. 19 beat Bay 35-14; Sept. 26 beat Rutherford 49-28; Oct. 3 lost to Mosley 44-33; Oct. 10 beat Milton 35-26; Oct. 17 lost to Arnold 38-36; Oct. 24 beat Gulf Breeze 56-35; Oct. 31 lost to West Florida 54-28.
Players to watch
Skinny: As a sophomore, Blocker torched opposing secondary units and finished with 2577 passing yards and 22 TDs. Blocker’s ability to escape the pocket and gain yards with his legs is second to none.
Skinny: Not only does Smiley possess superior pass coverage skills, he is also built with the size, length and speed to overpower receivers in one-on-one situations.
Skinny: Watson secured an offer from Troy University following his strong freshman season. Watson will help lead an offensive line full of returners.
Skinny: Brown spent the majority of his junior year playing defense, recording 70 total tackles. But it appears Brown will make an impact on offense this year, as the junior showed a standout performance with two rushing touchdowns in Catholic’s spring game vs. Pensacola High.
Skinny:Wright finished his junior year with 53 solo tackles and played in all 10 games for the Crusaders. Wright bolsters an experienced secondary, and showed his ability to contribute as receiver in Catholic’s spring game.
Top 3 games
Oct. 2, at Florida High: The Crusaders will travel for their first district battle of the season at Florida High. The game will mark the second contest of a three-game road trip.
Oct. 9, at West Florida: While this match up is no longer a district rivalry, chances are both squads will treat it like one. The Crusaders will seek to avenge last season’s loss and strive to maintain intensity heading into a district game the following week.
Oct. 16, vs. Taylor County: Playing in a three-team district, Taylor County is essentially a must-win for the Catholic. After three away games, the ‘Saders will return to Gorecki-Lebeau Stadium and defend their field.