Football Insider: Returnees help Crowley extend regular-season streak

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After moving to 4-0 with a 42-38 win over Burleson Centennial last week, the Crowley Eagles have won 13 consecutive regular-season games.

Perhaps the most impressive part of that streak is that the program graduated 49 seniors from last year’s District 8-4A champion squad. Only eight of 22 starters returned for 2013, but they’ve been primary pieces to this year’s success.

“Every one of these kids were either a part of or witnessed last season,” coach Chris James said. “For us to string together 10 wins in a row was an accomplishment. I think that the group of seniors we had last year really started it, and the group this year wants to continue that. They got the taste of winning and they want to win, and they know what it takes to do so.”

Perhaps no returning piece has been more vital than quarterback Matt Marner, who steered the team to the area finals last year. The dual threat has thrown for more than 600 yards and six scores through four games while adding another 500 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.

“We’ve got a quarterback who can run it,” James said. “I’m not talking about running the ball, I’m talking about running our system. He knows it inside and out; he knows what every position on the field is supposed to do, including the offensive line.”

The defense has also benefited from its corps of returning linebackers.

“We returned three linebackers who are some of the smartest kids in the entire school,” James said. “They can get us lined up, know all our checks and know when to get us out of blitzes and so forth. At key positions, we’ve got people on the field that are just like coaches.”

Flying Wildcats

Fort Worth Dunbar is off to a 5-0 start, and not even coach Todd Lawson can remember the last time that was the case.

The Wildcats cleared a major hurdle to the District 6-4A championship two weeks ago with a wild victory over last year’s champ, Birdville, and now Dunbar (3-0 in 6-4A) faces Saginaw Boswell (2-2, 2-0) this week for the inside track to the 6-4A title. More than anything else, Lawson feels like the team’s relative health has been the key to its success this year.

“We kind of knew what we had. Our main objective was to just stay healthy,” said Lawson, whose 2012 playoff team went 5-6. “We knew we had the guys; we have the parts. Last year, we had a pretty successful year, but on and off — one week this kid was ready to go, but this kid was down.”

Offensively, Dunbar has thrived on big plays this season — the Wildcats are averaging under 40 plays per game and yet scoring 46 points per contest. It’s not necessarily how Lawson would have it, but he’ll take it.

Lawson’s counterpart, Saginaw Boswell coach John Abendschan, had the luxury of an extra week to prepare for Dunbar, but he’s not sure the Pioneers’ bye week will be much of an advantage.

“Every time I watch them on film they seem to get faster, so I’m not sure if that’s an advantage or not,” Abendschan said jokingly. “I keep trying to find a weakness in their offense and it’s not there.”

In 2001, Dunbar was 8-1 in the regular season, finishing No. 6 in The Associated Press 4A state poll. They won their last seven regular-season games, and added a bi-district win against Stephenville, 35-21. The Wildcats lost to Southlake Carroll 23-22 in the 4A area round.

From winless to wow

When Mansfield Summit finished its nondistrict slate 0-3, many were writing off the Jaguars. But when the games started to count, Summit put together its best performance of the season, knocking off Waxahachie 38-34 to start District 15-4A play 1-0.

“From Day One we were going to be a work in progress,” coach Travis Pride said. “We’re a young team, and not just by definition of age, but a very inexperienced team. Almost every position out there, kids were new to varsity level. We were going to have some growing pains one way or another.”

Pride was impressed with how his squad stayed positive through the rough start, and felt like they’ve done all he can ask for — and that’s improve every week. He also noted that the win over a respected Waxahachie team probably helped more than anything he could say to the team.

“There’s a lot that goes into success,” he said. “You can talk about it and you can show your kids how you were one play away from a win or whatever, but at the end it’s either a win or a loss. So, to finally to have some of their efforts pay off, I think that does way more for the kids’ confidence than anything I could ever say.”

Player of the Week

In the fan vote for top performances from Sept. 26-28, Everman running back Kierre Crossley had the most online support, with 5,206 votes. More than 10,000 votes were cast for six players. Visit the site Monday to see who’s in the running for this week’s games.

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