Photo By Loren Orr - #1 Gutama Haws
Written by Dylan Carder, Sports Director KIFI/KIDK
In his first year as head coach at Hillcrest, Kevin Meyer lead the Knights to it's second state title in school history. Meyer brought 37 years of coaching experience and changed the culture, motivating a loaded senior class to a 12-1 record and the school's first championship in ten years. Year two will be a much tougher task.
The Knights lose a ton of talent from last year's championship team. Gone to graduation are nine starters on offense and nine starters on defense. Kyle Austin, Oakley Hussey, Jordan Neuerburg, Trae Henry, Jordan Peterson, Ed Carle, and Dakota Yorgensen were all key contributors on both sides of the ball.
Hillcrest will once again hang its hat on running the football with a goal of dominating the line of scrimmage. Austin, Hussey, Neuergurg were dominant runners for the Knights a year ago, but there will be a new crew in the backfield this season. Senior Seth Curtis and junior Demik Hatch will compete for the starting QB job. Returning to the offensive line will be seniors Trace Laird and Spencer Astel.
It will be similar story for the Knights on defense. Last years squad gave up just 233 yards and 13.2 points per game. Hillcrest held opponents to just 75 yards rushing per game. However, just two starters remain from that group. Astel is back at linebacker and senior Gutawa Haws returns at cornerback.
Many of the faces and names will be different for the Knights in 2019, but the culture that Meyer has installed in the program remains. He says their philosophy “will be to be the most physically dominating team every Friday night in all three phases of the game. Our team is built to run the ball and stop the run defensively. We also expect to be the best conditioned team in 4A.”
While it is easy to point to all the starters that the Knights have lost, Meyer notes that many of the players that are returning did see playing time during their championship run. He also says that the strength of the team this year will be in the trenches, both offensively and defensively.
Hillcrest is not likely to dominate the High Country Conference like it did a year ago. The amount of talent they lost has closed the gap between them and the rest of the league. However, Meyer does a great job of getting the most out of his players. Any team that steps onto the field with the Knights will be in for a fight and will have to earn whatever it gets. Hillcrest won't be the favorite heading into 2019, but don't count them out.