The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder led the Indians in sacks and finished third in tackles as they qualified for the IHSA Class 7A playoffs for a seventh consecutive year.
Tim Sughroue is entering his 10th season as head coach and 25th with the Hononegah program, and he knows he has a good one in Cremeens.
“The first thing about Jacob is that he’s an extremely hard worker,” Sughroue said. “He’s always doing strength and conditioning work, and that’s what has made him into the player he has become. He is a long, lanky athlete who has put on 20 good pounds and just makes a lot of plays. He just hustles all of the time.”
Cremeens said his biggest improvement has come in the weight room, but he knows that he still has work to do.
“I would say I have to improve the most in my run defense,” said Cremeens, who switched from outside linebacker to the trenches midway through his sophomore season and earned all-conference first team recognition last fall.
“I prefer the defensive line, and I was happy with my performance. But I think there’s always room for improvement.”
Cremeens understands that he will be looked at as one of the team’s leaders, but he knows he can’t do it alone.
“It will be interesting to see how we fill all of these (open) spots,” he said. “I think a lot of people need to step up and be leaders. Because the conference is gonna be tough, and I don’t think one team will stand out.”
Sughroue said Cremeens usually isn’t the best or fastest guy on the field, but he has the “it” factor and does so many things that don’t show up in the box score.
“He still needs to work on his physicality and speed off the ball, but Jacob has all of the intangibles you look for,” Sughroue said. “He is smart and reads and reacts so well that he avoids a lot of blocks to make plays. He reads pass well and reacts in a hurry to get after the quarterback.
“Offenses try to take advantage of a defense’s aggressiveness, but you can’t trap him. He has such good instincts, which allows him to close gaps and get underneath blocks. He just wreaks havoc.”
Those attributes will be on display when the Indians open the season Friday, Aug. 29, against Rockford East.
Sughroue said the NIC-10 won’t be easy for Hononegah, which must replace eight first- or second-team performers.
“We are going to be very inexperienced,” Sughroue said. “I believe the conference will be the best and most competitive it’s been in the last seven years. Boylan is the favorite and team to beat, but Belvidere North and Auburn have a number of talented athletes with varsity experience returning. You’re not going to see all of the blowouts in the NIC-10 like we’ve seen.”