Lancaster Red Devils
Crissey is not new to the Red Devil sideline, although he is new to the job. The physical education teacher took the reins from Fred Birchett, who retired after a five-year stint as coach and athletic director.
A veteran of Lancaster High's coaching staff, Crissey has served multiple coaching roles with the offense, defense and special teams in his four years with the Devils.
Prior to coming to Lancaster, he was an assistant coach for two years at Bedford High School in Pennsylvania. From 2003-2007, he played left tackle at West Virginia University, where he lettered for two years.
"You either coach it or you allow it to happen. That's sort of my motto," said Crissey, "and I'm committed to coaching instead of allowing things to happen.
"I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here," he added. "We've been very successful on offense the last couple of years."
The Devils made a playoff run in 2010 after ending the year as co-district champions, then went 5-6 last season before losing in the first round of the Eastern Sectional, Division 1 playoffs.
Crissey lost some big guns from last year's team, however, including its quarterback, an all-district running back and a decorated two-way lineman.
He returns 12 starters, including six on each side of the ball. What he has done to help fill the holes is recruit. There are a few names among the starters that haven't even been on the roster before.
"I'm trying to find ways to get our athletes on the field, to get the best athletes we have on the field," he added. "That's my job and the job of our coaches."
Kedrick Lee, who threw for 20 touchdowns and over 2,400 yards as an all-district second-teamer last season, has graduated and his vacated quarterback spot will be filled by senior Ricky Gibson, with a push from junior Taylor Woolard.
Gibson was on the receiving end last year with 34 receptions for 806 yards but will call the plays in Lancaster's spread offense this year.
"Ricky's a dynamic kid. He can run the ball and throw the ball and is an added threat back there," said Crissey.
Gibson is a utility player who'll spend little time on the sidelines. He'll play quarterback, safety and return kicks and punts.
A big hole to fill is in the backfield where the district's co-offensive player of the year TreVaughn Davis used to be. Davis, who toted for 1,449 yards with 13 touchdowns and two two-point conversions, has graduated. In his place will be running backs DeVante Stewart and Justin Washington. Stewart is a junior returner and Washington is a junior JV grad.
"Both bring different things to the table," said Crissey, "and depending on the game situation, that's who will get the most carries. Whoever's hot, we'll ride them that game."
Seniors Kaliq Noel and Demetrick Lee and junior Tyrell Henderson will be Gibson's targets.
Crissey's offensive line is a "strong point," with senior Devonte Haskins one of three returners in the trenches. Haskins will play left guard and senior Bridell Carter returns to play right guard. Senior Brad Smith moves from one spot on the line to another and will be snapping to Gibson. He replaces graduated center Danny McGrath.
With "the three guys back in the middle, there's our leadership" on the line, said Crissey. Newcomers to the line are junior tackle Timothy McDaniels and sophomore tackle Steven Barksdale.
Haskins, who was a second-team defender last year, returns to anchor the defensive line. He'll share time at right tackle with junior Dominique Taylor while left tackle will likely be sophomore returner Sam Bouis.
Linebackers in Crissey's 3-5-3 stack defense will be Noel and junior Tyrell Henderson on the outsides, sophomore D'Sean Wright and senior Shane Chambers inside and Smith in the middle.
Lee and Washington will play at the corners and Gibson will defend against the long ball downfield at safety.
"The majority of our kids play both ways. Our key guys have to," said Crissey. "That's typical in a Class 1A school with Lancaster's numbers.
"We have to be a little stronger defensively than we were last year," said Crissey. "We can't rely on our offense to score 50 points. We've been working on that in practice and hopefully making a difference."
Junior Paul Chambers will kick off and punt. Seniors Matthew Joyner and Jack Kelley remain in competition to kick extra points and field goals.
Freshman Raquan Ball and Gibson will run back kicks; Gibson will handle most of the punt returns.
Lancaster Red Devils
COACH: Damien Crissey (1st year).
ASSISTANT COACHES: Ashley Wilmore, Marcus Ferguson, Draper Washington, Bob Wick.
LAST YEAR: 5-6 overall.
BASIC OFFENSE: Spread formation.
BASIC DEFENSE: 3-35.
TOP RETURNERS: QB Ricky Gibson, LB Bridell Carter, WR Tyrell Henderson, DE/G Devonte Haskins, C Brad Smith, WR Demetrick Lee, WR Kaliq Noel, RB DaVante Stewart, OL/DL Sam Bouis.
TOP NEWCOMERS: CB Justin Washington, LB Tyrell Henderson, LB Shane Chambers, LB D'Sean Wright.
POWER ANALYSIS: Last year the Devils gave up as many points as they scored, so Crissey and crew are concentrating on defense. Lancaster returns six to the stopping unit but Crissey suits up some newcomers in key positions. The Devils also made some key position switches and will rely on a new center and new quarterback to execute the plays. Despite the changes, Crissey is optimistic about his first year at the helm of the Devil team. As always, Lancaster has some speed in its skill positions and may surprise some folks.