PARIS - Breck Hancock had an outstanding junior campaign in the fall of 2016 during what was a tough Paris High School football season which Coyotes struggled moving the chains and keeping opponents out of the end zone. This led to a disappointing 2-8 record a year ago for Paris.

It was Breck's nose for the football defensively that earned him Class 1 All-State Second Team honors at linebacker. He wrapped up 135 total tackles (40 solo) and got to the quarterback enough times to record 12 sacks. Hancock also came down with a pick returning the football for 12 yards.

Paris will look for Hancock to at least mirror that performance and having several others enhance their play as well during this new campaign. There will be a great need for team unity and playing team football this 2017 season as fewer bodies are expected to be in uniform.

“This is going to be a challenging year. We are going to be very young and limited in numbers as we will be lucky to have 20 team members,” said Paris head coach Gary Crusha as he will be working with seven players being freshmen and six as sophomores. “We will do the best we can with our numbers and we might be this way for a couple of years due to our school enrollment. There may be students walking in our halls capable of playing football and could be helping us out, but we are putting all of our attention and focus on those that we have on the roster and want to play. We hope to stay healthy and get better each week.”

Crusha knows he has an uphill battle to put a competitive team on the field, a unit he hopes will be allergic to having any injury simply because his players will be small in number.

“Our goal is to stay healthy and to get better each week. Us staying healthy will be a big concern. I imagine we will have eight to nine players who will pretty much not be leaving the field as they will be needed to play all phases of the game,” Paris coach Crusha said. “Seven of our players on the team are freshmen so when we go down with an injury, we go young real fast with those seven having no varsity experience.”

Paris is expected to have six returning starters on both offense and defense when the Coyotes kick off their season Aug. 18 at Lewis & Clark Conference rival Harrisburg.

Crusha is into his 21st year of coaching football (56-89 overall record) and into his eighth season with the Coyotes (29-36 record). Crusha and his coaching staff of Darren Beaver, Garrett Thomas and Joseph Utterback have a daunting task of improving a program that garnered an average of 185 total offensive yards per game and lost by an average score of 34-14 a year ago.

Coach Crusha is diligently working to groom what will pretty much be a completely new backfield and receiving corps as Paris works out of a wing format.

'We're running an older style of a wing offense simply because we're trying to be conservative since we only have 19 athletes on the team. We will try to eat up as much time of the clock per possession. Our line on both sides of the football is where we are strong at, while our skill positions is where we are really short at,” said Crusha. 'We've scrapped what we did offensively last year, and put in a new system that basically is designed to work with a couple of players. If those persons change during the season for reason of injury for example, then we will need to change or tweak our offense.”

Hancock happens to be the only skill position player returning to the lineup as others either graduated or chose not to play football this fall. Hancock rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries last season for the Coyotes.

This season, Hancock is expected to spend most of the time under center, but will also share quarterback duties with senior Brandon Williams (5'10, 140) . Hancock will give the offensive scheme more of a fullback look and could likely be rushing more than 20 times per game, while Williams presents speed and agility.

Tailback positions will be sophomore Kasion Berrey (5'9, 160) and freshman Reese Barton, with Brandon Williams as wing back.

Sophomore Ethan Reddington (6'0, 200) returns as center, a position he took over during the last three games a year ago when Trent Glove went to the sidelines with an injury. Junior Mac Baladenski (6'0, 200) will be right guard and senior Trenton Morgan (6'1, 175) is at right guard. Glove will move over a spot to rotate at a guard spot. Senior tackle Zach Rentschler (6'2, 260) and junior Devin Brandl (6'1, 240) will work at the tackle positions.

Defensively, the Coyotes operate out of a 4-4 front with Hancock as a middle linebacker and joining him will be Tyler Staples (58 tackles).. Look for Williams (16 tackles) starting in the defensive backfield with junior Nick Painter (12 tackles) while the safety position remains to be filled.

“We have some talented players and our kids work and play hard. I'm extremely proud of the kids we have, and for the heart they have shown this summer in working with weights and in team camp,” Crusha said.

Salisbury is the Coyotes' home opening opponent come Aug. 25 while Homecoming game is against Fayette on Sept. 22. The only non-conference school on its regular season schedule is its neighbor to the east, Monroe City Panthers on Sept. 29.

Crusha sees Marceline, Fayette and Westran to fight strong for the Lewis & Clark Conference football title this season.

“Marceline has to be the favorite and be on top. Marceline has much depth returning along with speed and athleticism, having more to work with as a team than the rest of us for the most part. Westran seems to always be tough each year. They might be down a little bit in some key starting roles, but they always find a way to be competitive,” Crusha said. “Fayette lost some linemen, but I don't think they lost any of their skill players, and they all were pretty good last season. Fayette also brings back Estes who is like our conference's most outstanding player of the year.”