Former Hawk brings new look to Woodward-Granger football

Sean Cordy, Correspondent
Special to the Chief
The Woodward-Granger football team warms up before the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.

Just about the only thing that will look the same in Woodward is the Hawks still wearing green and gold. With head coach Cory Crnkovich stepping in to replace George Ashman after over a decade holding the Hawks' clipboard, Woodward-Granger looks to have a completely revamped offense that could give opponents new trouble.

Offense

Despite going through the Hawks' ground-and-pound system, Crnkovich is bringing a whole new scheme to Woodward. As a wide receiver in college, Crnkovich developed a liking for the spread offense and further proved its viability as the head coach at Collins-Maxwell, building the eight-man program from scratch the past four seasons.

Under Crnkovich, the Spartans held a 14-24 record and went from one win his first season and improved the next two seasons. That was led by the team's pass-first philosophy. In his final two seasons, the Spartans attempted 561 passes to 434 rushes (including sacks) for roughly a 60/40 split in favor of the air. By comparison, the Hawks passed just 30 percent of plays last year with an experienced QB and blazing receiving corps.

Woodward-Granger throws the ball during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.

With that change in philosophy, eyes are on receiver-QB convert Carter Moran. Knowing Moran's inexperienced behind center, Crnkovich is still excited for the potential considering Moran's ability to stretch the pocket.

"He's very smart and can decipher things on the fly," Crnkovich said. "The learning curve is huge. I told him when I first got the hire, 'We're either gonna become friends or we're going to hate each other' because we want to make sure we're on the same page and I think you've got to hold the quarterback to higher standards. And I think I got the right person for the job."

Adding further change to the mix, last season's top two rushers Kade Polich and Jake Lego are absent, with the latter opting out of the season following a significant leg injury as a junior, leaving the opportunity of a rotation of running backs to link up opposed to one bell cow.

The Woodward-Granger football team runs a play during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.

Defense

On the flip side of the ball, concepts and schemes will look largely the same for the Hawks. As for the leaders, Dane Polich is the only top-five tackler returning to the fold. He had 36 total tackles as a sophomore, ranked fourth on the team.

Perhaps more significantly, the team loses 31 of its 46 tackles for loss as key run-stuffers Jon McKeever and Garrett Burkhart graduated. That should open a window for Jack Muesberger to build upon his stellar junior campaign as well as Dustin Harney and Alex Evans to flex their wrestling chops.

A Woodward-Granger player makes a sack during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.

Opponents

While the schedule has been updated this season, it's largely the same compared to years past. In place of Van Meter as the perennial powerhouse on the schedule are South Hamilton and South Central Calhoun, two teams that made the state playoffs last year.

The Hawks will also enjoy some conference action against Interstate 35 and ACGC. But at the top of the list is the season-opener against Madrid.

After the Tigers painted their route to hype their game last year only to lose 49-6, the two old rivals play once again, this time on Madrid's turf. As a Woodward alum, Crnkovich said he's thrilled to face the Tigers and hopes it can become a standing tradition.

"Some of the coaching staff and I, we never got to play against them and we're from here," Crnkovich said. "We would have loved to do that because we knew most of those guys in our class. As long as we're here, we would like to play Madrid. That's like an Iowa-Iowa State or Dowling-Valley rivalry."

The Woodward-Granger football team in action during the Fall Kickoff on Friday, Aug. 20 in Perry.