2016 St. Michaels Football Preview

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The St. Michaels football squad returns to Division II as they head into 2016, coming off a .500 season in Division I last year and a first round exit from the playoffs. Coach Ben Ortiz enters his tenth season at St. Michaels and his second as the head coach of the Crusaders. Ortiz believes they will field a competitive playoff team and has some pretty basic goals: make the playoffs, have practice over the Thanksgiving break, and make it to state. Practicing over the holiday means the Crusaders will have made the state semifinals, something Ortiz believes in if they can stay healthy.

QUARTERBACKS
Gabriel Vondrak should be the starter going into week one. The 6’2″ senior gunslinger gives the Crusaders experienced leadership as the primary signal caller. Junior Smith Carlton could also see time at QB and is a little more elusive on the ground. Sophomore Chase Crabtrey will play QB as needed.

RUNNING BACKS
No information available at time of writing.

RECEIVERS
Senior Elijah Gifford leads the receiver group for St. Michaels. Gifford is “a tremendous athlete with a ton of speed.” Also, expect a big season from Mitchell Kundler, whose great hands make him a target when possessions count the most. Junior Gabriel Cascarano should get the nod at tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINE
The line is thin on bodies and experience and is critical for Crusader success. Johnny Bryant will anchor the OL. Coach Ortiz describes Bryant as a “much improved player” who could end up being a team leader. Christian Magana, one of the more aggressive players, will help solidify the line play.

DEFENSIVE LINE
The defensive line should be another strength for the Crusaders as they will play fast. Cascarano starts at defensive end and is very quick off the snap, often wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield. Junior Chris Thompson also adds speed and aggressiveness on the line while Bryant will play both ways and plug up the middle on defense.

LINEBACKERS
The linebacker position will be thin on experience heading into the season, however junior Landon Watkins is back and is a natural at the position. The junior is a hard hitter with a knack for finding the ball quickly. Watkins will also see time on the offensive line.

SECONDARY
The Crusader secondary will be led by Elijah Gifford. His speed and ability to fly to the ball should make him one of the better secondary players in Division II. The very athletic Smith Carlton will help in the secondary and can play both corner and safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS
All kicking and punting duties will be handled by Pedro Tijerina.

OUTLOOK
The Crusaders move back to Division II and will probably have a tougher time making the playoffs this season. The move puts St. Michaels in the same district as playoff staples Holy Cross, Hyde Park, Regents, and San Antonio Christian. We expect St. Michaels to be very competitive in this district, however the lack of numbers might come into play if the Crusaders experience injuries. The future looks bright as there are just a handful of seniors on the team. Coach Ortiz believes his team will be in the mix come the first week of November and the talent and speed of the Crusaders lends credit to that thought. We find out what St. Michaels is made of right away as they start the season on the road at another playoff stalwart in Grapevine Faith.

2016 St. Michaels Schedule
8/26 @Grapevine Faith
9/2 Weimer
9/9 @Houston Christian
9/16 Hallettsville Sacred Heart
9/23 @Regents(district)
9/30 San Antonio Christian (district)
10/6 @Hyde Park (district)
10/14 OPEN
10/21 @Cornerstone Christian (district)
10/28 Saint Marys Hall (district)
11/4 Holy Cross (district)

Written by David Fuller; Photo by Texas High School Helmet Project