With all eyes on Arlington Sam Houston this season, after last year’s first trip to the UIL boys state soccer tournament, North Crowley claimed the 2016 District 4-6A title — the first in the program’s history.
“We definitely surprised ourselves,” North Crowley senior goalkeeper Allan Richards said. “The seniors were huddled together and were like, ‘Did we even imagine this when we were freshmen?’ because we only won a handful of games my freshman year.
“We’ve come a long way from that point of being at the bottom of the table to actually winning a district championship.”
The Panthers (16-4-1, 35 points in 4-6A) have managed varying degrees of success over the years, but 2015 and ’16 have arguably been the best. Sam Houston (13-6-2, 31 points) finished as district runner-up. First-round playoff games are March 24-26.
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North Crowley coach Browning Stupp contends that a big part of the recent rise has to do with two assistant coaches hired in that time, David Henley and Daniel Lockridge.
We’ve come a long way from that point of being at the bottom of the table to actually winning a district championship.
North Crowley goalkeeper Allan Richards
Henley and Lockridge played under Stupp just a few years back. Henley is a 2011 North Crowley graduate; Lockridge graduated a year later.
“David I knew was going to be an assistant coach right away,” Stupp said. “When he was my captain as a junior and senior, he scouted games all the time breaking down film.”
Lockridge was coaching recreational and club teams while still in high school, and always had a passion for coaching.
“My former players come back all the time,” Stupp added. “They come out to games and practices. There’s been a steady stream of those players coming back.”
There’s definitely a sense of family. Everybody knows everybody and people know the older siblings who played at North Crowley.
North Crowley assistant and former player David Henley
Though it’s nestled firmly in the urban sprawl of Fort Worth, the North Crowley soccer program almost takes on the feel of a remote, one-high-school town.
“There’s definitely a sense of family,” Henley explained. “Everybody knows everybody and people know the older siblings who played at North Crowley. Everyone is pretty well connected. It’s pretty cool when you can connect people who graduated six or seven years ago with people who are still in high school now.”
Both Henley and Lockridge teach in the special education department in addition to coaching soccer, and both feel their youth has helped them make significant impacts with the players.
“There’s a playful-like relationship, but we still respect them as we do with coach Stupp,” senior captain Alan Mendoza said. “I feel like they’ve been through it a couple of years ago, so it’s easier to talk to them.”
Said Richards: “It gave us someone to relate to on the coaching staff and someone we could approach with how we felt and how we wanted things to run. They really helped us have a voice and helped us make the program more personal to us.”
I feel like they’ve been through it a couple of years ago, so it’s easier to talk to them.
North Crowley senior captain Alan Mendoza
In the two short years Henley and Lockridge have helped raise the bar for North Crowley soccer, they’ve already seen the rewards that drew them to teaching and coaching in the first place.
“I can’t even really put it into words, honestly,” Lockridge said. “It’s been amazing. As a coach, you’re just so proud of them because you work on things all week and all year to get to this point. As a coach you can just sum it up as absolute pride in seeing the product from all the hard work the boys have put in.”
How far the Panthers ultimately can go this season remains to be determined, but a new measure for success has already been set. Stupp hopes the work ethic and pride continue to filter down to future classes, especially with alumni as coaches.
“They listen to their coaching,” Stupp added. “We’ve got a lot of blue-collar, yes-sir, no-sir kids. It just inspires them to play harder with the examples we have as coaches, because that’s what they were when they were players. I think those kids take a lot of pride in what they’re doing on the field and it permeates through them.”