Encino Crespi lost several key players from a season ago. Then again, the Celts are no different from any other team in the Southland. Perhaps the thing separating them from other programs is the fact this group returns a solid foundation as coach Jon Mack enters his second year at the helm.
Senior Chris Harper takes over as the No. 1 option at receiver in the high-powered Crespi offense following the departure of Devin Lucien, who is playing at UCLA. Fellow wideout Mike Davison, also an upperclassman, figures to assume a larger role as well.
Here's a closer look at the Celts:
Team: Encino Crespi.
Coach: Jon Mack, second season.
2010 Record: 8-4, lost in quarterfinals of CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.
Returning starters: 15 total. Eight on offense. Seven on defense.
Key players on offense: OL Jordan Simmons, WR Chris Harper, WR Mike Davison, TE Trevon Callahan, TE Jack Vonarb, RB Terry Williams.
Key players on defense: DB Noah Ciccel, DB Nathan Walker, LB Sebastian Edwards, LB Corey Peoples, LB LJ Wilkerson, DL Khorey Gabriel, DL Sean Lomoto.
Difference maker: Simmons, no question about it. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound senior is a superb pass-protector. He is is also a force in the rushing attack, agile enough to get out in space and make a clear path. Accordingly, Simmons is being recruited by most every powerhouse program in the country. He keeps Paul Rawate, Crespi's director of marketing and public relations, busy week in and week out with phone calls from prospective schools. Where Simmons ends up is anyone's guess. One thing is certain: He will be playing on Saturdays in the very near future.
Newcomers: OL Jacob Speer (Granada Hills transfer), OL Colin Prestesater (Glendora transfer), OL Wes Hewitt (Humbolt transfer), QB Cody Cordell (Oaks Christian transfer), LB Sklyer Stone (Westlake transfer), QB Brad Kaaya, WR Jabarian Blackwell.
Not to be missed: at Mission Hills Alemany, Friday, Oct. 28. The host Warriors figure to be ranked among the top 10 teams in the ESPNLosAngeles.com poll at this stage of the season. Crespi might be as well. This game should be for all the marbles, a showdown with Serra League title implications. Clear your schedules now, this one could be a classic.
Coach’s comment: “What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were struggling to teach the language, the fundamentals and the techniques of the game. Now, we are working on perfecting things. I am very pleased with the attitude and effort of this team and cannot wait for fall ball to start.”
Final analysis: Once the Celts determine who the quarterback will be -- Cordell is currently leading Kaaya in the race for the starter's role -- they could possibly be on their way to big things. Harper, Davison and Callahan are reliable targets. And with Simmons in the mix, watch out. Crespi will likely compete for a league title and appears poised for a deep postseason run.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.