Last season: 10-2, 6-1 in District 8-4A
Key players: QB Zach Copple (5-10, 175), RB Michael Williams (5-7, 145), WR Adam Aguirre (5-11, 172), S Kenneth Coleman (5-11, 175), DT LaRance Shaw (6-2, 265), LB Jordan McClendon (6-0, 195).
The big picture: After back-to-back District 8-4A titles, the Eagles graduated a strong senior class that included district MVP Matt Marner and district defensive MVP Markus Jones. Replacing Marner at quarterback will be priority No. 1 as Crowley starts practice next week. The answer should be senior Zach Copple, a three-year starter on the baseball team who backed up Marner last year but didn’t attempt a pass. Still, Crowley coach Chris James said the strong-armed Copple should fit nicely into the Eagles’ spread offense, which totaled more than 5,000 yards in 2013. “With him, it’s going to be what mentally he can handle,” James said. “If he can get better and handle those things, I think we’ll have a shot.” Surrounding Copple will be a stable of “scat backs,” including Michael Williams, a junior who will be the primary back to replace Day’Lonzo Freeman. He rushed for 1,698 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. “[Williams] started for us last year in the slot, and we’re hoping he can step up in the backfield and be a good player for us,” James said. Receiver Adam Aguirre, a senior who hauled in six touchdowns last year, will be Copple’s “go-to guy.” Defensively, James is counting on three players: junior safety Kenneth Coleman, senior defensive tackle LaRance Shaw and senior linebacker Jordan McClendon. Shaw will be the anchor of Crowley’s four-man front. “Without him on the field, without his play — and it starts up front — it’s going to be difficult.” Coleman and McClendon will both bring experience — Coleman started last year and McClendon the last two years.
Quotable: “[Coleman] understands what to do. He’s one of those rare athletes who can tell his body to do something, and he’ll do it the first time. He’s such a coachable kid. You tell him one time and he’s got it.” — coach Chris James
“I’ve been playing with [Copple] since freshman year — that’s been my quarterback. He’s been my best friend since freshman year. He’s got what it takes to be a really great quarterback. We’re going to see the first game.” — WR Adam Aguirre
Notable: February’s UIL realignment placed Crowley in the same district as Aledo, last year’s Class 4A Division II champion that set a single-season national scoring record (1,023 points). But the Bearcats won’t be the only roadblock in Crowley’s quest for a third straight district crown. Everman, Burleson and Granbury also made the playoffs in 2013.
— Ryan Osborne