Crestview’s Preston Zaleski (10) made plenty of big plays in last season’s 21-0 season-opening win at Parkway. The Panthers fear more of the same on Friday night. (DHI Media file photo)
Crestview’s Preston Zaleski (10) made plenty of big plays in last season’s 21-0 season-opening win at Parkway. The Panthers fear more of the same on Friday night. (DHI Media file photo)
DHI Media Sports Editor
CONVOY — It’s easy to look at the 2014 Crestview football team and expect greatness. The Knights are coming off a historic season for the program and return the bulk of the skill players on offense from a team that shared the Northwest Conference title last year and won a playoff game.
While the Knights bring back speed on the outside and experience in the backfield, they must replace the bulk of the offensive line, which is something that head coach Jared Owens cautions should not be overlooked.
“We lost some really good linemen, and we’ve got some young people that are trying to fill those spots,” Owens said. “We have some people that have some experience on the line, but are out of position. That’s where football games are won and lost, and that’s an area we really have to improve.”
The re-vamped line will get its first test of the season on Friday night as Crestview hosts Parkway. The Panthers are coming off a 3-win campaign, but one that saw some of their young players get plenty of experience due to injuries. Head coach Dan Cairns expects his club to be better able to cope should similar problems present themselves this season.

“The bad thing was that we had a bunch of young guys playing probably before they were ready, but the good thing is that everybody got at least five games under their belt last year,” Cairns said. “I definitely feel like we’re in a better position this year in terms of experience; I think we’re deeper than we’ve been in any of my four years here.”
The Panthers are led on offense by sophomore signal-caller Justin Barna, who inherited the job mid-season last year. Barna split time with Hayden Ambramovich during the preseason and Cairns sees the value of having two quarterbacks ready for the Friday night schedule.
“I have a freshman quarterback who I think is going to be good in his own time, I just didn’t want to be in a situation where we were forced to play him before he was ready,” Cairns noted. “Hayden played quarterback as a freshman, so it gave us an opportunity to have an upperclassman ready; someone who is used to playing on Friday nights, so if things go south, or if Justin gets hurt, he gives us someone who can come in who has been there and done it and knows the offense.”
Though Barna is green under center, his opposite number is a seasoned veteran. Cairns sees slowing down Crestview’s Preston Zaleski as the key to limiting the Knight attack.
“They’re very dangerous,” Cairns added. “The biggest worry for us is Zaleski. Take nothing away from their fullback (Jake Lippi) or (tailback) Malcolm Oliver, just when they’re running the option, Zaleski seems to be the motor that makes everything go for them.”
“He seems to be the big-play guy for them,” Cairns continued. “He can hurt you throwing the ball or running the option, or, when things break down, he can always just scramble and make things happen. We have to do a good job containing him. I think it’s impossible to stop him completely.”
While the Panthers have plenty of athletes, Cairns has yet to see consistent explosiveness from his offense during camp. Led by linebacker Jordan Roop, Crestview’s defense is building a reputation as an aggressive and tenacious group and will look to keep Parkway from getting rolling as the season opens up.
“We take pride in being a physical football team,” Owens agreed. “At the end of the game, when your opponent talks about the game and that they played a physical team that got after it, that’s what we want to be.”
The season kicks-off at the Convoy Athletic Complex on Friday night at 7 p.m. Presale tickets can be obtained from the Crestview athletic office on Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at a cost of $5 for adults and $4 for students. All tickets at the gate are $6.