Western Ohio is the home of some pretty darn good football. There are some great teams among the communities of the western part of the state, and the small-school football there is as good as it is anywhere (and they have the state titles to prove it). Schools like Versailles, St. Henry, Delphos St. Johns, St. Mary's Memorial, and Maria Stein Marion Local are all among the small schools from that area that have won multiple state titles in their past.
For Crestview, however, things are just getting started (or re-started, depending on how you look at it). Crestview is a Division VI school that had a situation from 1982 to 1996 that would be a nightmare for many fans -- they had no football team. Football was ended at Crestview in the 1981-82 year, and there continued to be no team until 1996, when the football program was started up once again at the junior high level. The community showed support, and things continued to look up in 1998-99 when the Crestview JV team went 10-0. Then finally, in 1999, Crestview fielded their first ever varsity football team. Since then, the community has been getting behind the team more and more as Crestview (which plays in the Northwest Conference) has been competitive in all their games and has posted a combined record of 12-17. "In the smaller schools, there is such a sense of pride in everything we do," said Head Coach Chad Williams. "People are very supportive, and each year we seem to be getting more support."
And now, as the Crestview Knights enter into their fourth varsity season, they will have a legitimate Division I football recruit in OL Kory Lichtensteiger.
"Kory is an incredible athlete for a guy 6'4'' 285 lbs," Coach Williams said. "If (Division I programs) aren't willing to take a chance on him, (they) will be missing out on that athletic ability."
Kory, who has run a 5.15 in the 40 along with a 325 lb bench and a 465 lb squat, has been able to catch the eye of recruiters using that athletic ability and talent, but he also has a drive and desire to win that makes him even better. "As a player, Kory is a great leader with a great deal of intensity," Coach Williams said. "He loves the game and wants to succeed on every play. His desire to be the best player on the field makes him very hard to stop defensively and gives a great deal of confidence offensively. He very often makes blocks downfield and sets up other blocks so well because of his quick feet."
Kory has not allowed a sack in two years of playing in Crestview's spread offense ("I can't think of one if he has," Coach Williams said), but this year, he might not need to pass-block quite as much.
"Although Kory is a good run-blocker, this season we will challenge him a little more because we will not be in a spread offense 95% of the time like last season," said Coach Williams. "Therefore, with more run blocking involved, he will have to continue to get stronger and faster."
Kory agrees. "I would definitely say my strength is pass blocking," he said. "We have run this style of game for the 3 years I've played varsity for Crestview. I don't want to say that my run blocking is my weakness but I do want to bring it up to the level that I would be happy with. I am in the weight room 12 months a year and I feel that is a big part of my success."
Right now, Kory plays tackle on offense but could also play guard on the next level. Offense isn't the only area where Kory stands out though as last year, he put up nice numbers as a defensive tackle. "We played 9 games last year," Kory said. "I had 17 unassisted tackles, 41 assisted tackles, 75 tackle points, 12 tackles for losses and 1 fumble recovery. I've started varsity since the first game of my freshman year."
What schools are looking at this small-school standout? Right now, Iowa, Indiana, OSU, Toledo, Northwestern, West Virginia, Bowling Green, and Kent State are among those interested, and Ohio State currently has the lead. "I've grown up a Buckeye and have always been a fan and love the program," Kory said.
Kory is also very busy with camps this summer. "I've been to Toledo and Purdue and am set to go to Kent State for Crestview team camp and will be attending Ohio State's camp," he said. "I would like to get to Iowa, West Virginia, Indiana, and maybe Northwestern."
The fact that Kory is a Division I recruit has been great for Crestview football. "I think for the school it gets our name out there and lets people know about our football program," Coach Williams said. "It also allows many of our other athletes to realize if they have the talent and want to work at it, they will have an opportunity to play a college sport at a high level. For the community, I think it just creates a sense of pride."
Playing for Crestview has been something that Kory has enjoyed and he doesn't think it has hurt him in any way. "Playing football for a new program has been great," Kory said. "I don't feel that playing football at a small school has made any difference in where I am as a player.
"Being a fairly large part of a small school has been a very cool experience," he continued. "It makes me work as hard as I can because I know that the other players and fans are counting on me. It is really cool when little kids come up to me and say they know me and they know my number. I even visited the kindergarten class and talked to them about playing football. I think that it is important because I think I need to be a positive role model."
Being a positive role model might come natural for Kory. "He is a very well-adjusted young man with good moral standards," Coach Williams said. "He is very modest and has a very positive outlook on life."
Off-the-field, Kory enjoys spending time with his friends and is thinking of majoring in design or drafting. Over the spring, he got a little experience in that field as he and his friends constructed a small building to hang out in in the woods. Kory is also a fine basketball player (10 PPG) and has two brothers who have played football; one has graduated and the other -- Luke -- is a sophomore-to-be and has already gotten a listing in Ohio's Future Stars, so Kory may not be Crestview's last D-I recruit.
It will be fun to watch what Kory Lichtensteiger can do and what he can bring to the Crestview football program. The question doesn't seem to be if he'll wind up playing football for a Division I-A school, but what school he'll play for. Wherever he ends up, it sounds like Kory has what it takes to be a success and make his town proud.