League: Class 4A Northwest
Head coach: Vernon Fox, fifth season (34-13)
2016 record: 6-5 (4-2 Northwest League, second)
Returning lettermen: 25
Returning starters: Five offense, six defense
Base offensive set: Spread, Pistol
Base defensive set: 3-4
Top offensive players: WR Elijah Kothe (Sr.); QB Sagan Gronauer (Jr.); RB Saundre Spiller (Sr.); OT John Schulte (Sr.)
Top defensive players: LB Nate Meredith (Jr.); LB Hunter Kaupiko (So.); CB Josh Hong (Sr.): LB John Thomson (Sr.); DB Taimani McKenzie (Jr.); CB Keagan Touchstone (Jr.)
Top newcomers: TE/WR Dalton Kincaid
Key losses: RB Christian Marshall; LB Clay Shipley
Outlook: The Crusaders started the 2016 season 1-3, before closing strong to finish second in the Northwest League.
They advanced to the Sunset Region semifinals, losing to eventual state champion Bishop Gorman.
And plenty of experience returns as Faith Lutheran looks to build on that strong finish.
Chief among the returnees is receiver Kothe, a second-team all-state pick who has committed to play at San Diego State. The 6-foot-4-inch receiver hauled in 55 passes for 1,053 yards and 10 TDs, and will give Gronauer a big target.
Gronauer had a solid first season as a starter, passing for 1,731 yards and 16 TDs. He’ll need to improve on his 48.5 percent completion rate to take the next step.
Marshall, who rushed for 1,062 yards, is gone, but Spiller (380 yards, seven TDs) should step into the role as the No. 1 back.
On defense, there is plenty of experience at linebacker with Thomson (82 tackles, 4 sacks), Meredith (66 tackles) and Kaupiko (64 tackles) back. The secondary also is one of the most experienced in the area with Hong (54 tackles, two interceptions), McKenzie (55 tackles) and Touchstone (47 tackles, four interceptions) all returning.
“We have an explosive offense and a group of returning starters on defense that should carry the team on that side of the ball,” Fox said.