Crespi Celts play physical brand of football

A look at Crespi

Crespi head coach Troy Thomas told the Daily News after his team suffered a heart-breaking 13-11 last minute defeat to league rival Alemany two weeks ago that the Celts played their best game of the season against the Warriors. There could be no question as to that assessment as Alemany’s potent offense scored 62 points against state-ranked Oaks Christian in a triple overtime thriller and barely lost to Trinity League power JSerra in overtime, 28-27. Suffice to say, the arrow is pointing up for a dangerous Crespi team whose record belies its talent level. Last Friday the Celts out scored Bishop Amat 17-3 in the second half of a 38-17 loss. Troy Thomas-coached teams are always physical and this season’s edition seems to have an extra edge to it. Inside linebacker Mason Tolliver (6-0,205) sets the tone for a defensive unit that is all about big hits. 

 Offensively, junior quarterback Hamish McClure (5-11, 180) is a talented athlete, and diminutive, but tough, running back Dylan Schlopy (5-7, 160) is a whirling dervish who gives opposing stop squads fits. The Celts have some skilled perimeter players, but Crespi wants to first and foremost impose its will with the run game. A big, strong offensive line helps in that area. Junior tackle Will Christiansen (6-3, 240) has the makings of a future scholarship player. Thomas coached the Celts to prominence from 2001 through 2004 (34-13 record) before a highly successful stint as the head man at Anaheim Servite. His return to his high school alma mater (17-21 record from 2013 to date) has not been as successful as his first stint as head coach, but his program appears to be trending in the right direction.

 Outlook

The Cubs better have their chin straps buckled up tightly in Friday's brawl because Crespi is going to be bringing it from the opening kickoff until the final gun. If Loyola does not match the Celts’ physicality, it is going to be a long night for the Cubs. Loyola likely has an advantage in the passing game. The contest will probably be decided by how effective the Cub ‘Wolfpack’ defense is against Crespi’s power run game. Special teams play may be critical for both squads.

 The series

Loyola leads the series that dates back to 1973, 25-9-1. Crespi won the inaugural game, but the Cubs have had the upper hand in 73% of the contests over the ensuing four-plus decades. The most memorable game in the series was in 1987 when both teams were ranked in USA Today’s national top ten. The game was played before an overflow crowd of 9,000 at Birmingham High in Lake Balboa. The gates were closed more than an hour before kickoff. Loyola’s defense completely shut down Celt All-American running back Russell White en route to a classic, hard fought 15-8 victory. The Del Rey League champion Cubs finished the season 11-1 following an upset loss in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Big Five Conference playoffs. Among the Big Blue stalwarts in that classic showdown were junior All-CIF defensive lineman Matt Butkus (USC), junior All-CIF safety Jimmy Klein (who started for Stanford as a true freshman), senior All-CIF linebacker Josh Price (Washington), junior running back Johann Fuller who earned All-CIF accolades as a senior in 1988, senior nose guard Paul Sellers (University of San Diego), senior linebacker Chris Hentz (UC Davis) and senior defensive end and current Cub assistant coach Mike Gilhooly (UCLA).