It’s not very often that high school state champions get recognized at a presidential press conference. But when the Commander-in-Chief has a ranch in your Texas hometown, you bet your bottom dollar he’ll give them praise.
President George W. Bush gave the Crawford Pirates a big shout-out when they won state in 2004. Presidents come and go in Washington, D.C., but Pirate football in Crawford remains consistent.
Crawford got back to state last season, only to fall in heart-breaking fashion to Refugio in the 2A Division I championship. Refugio booted a field goal with eight seconds remaining to win, 23-20.
Crawford has posted double-digit wins 10 of the last 13 seasons and made the playoffs every year but once. The Pirates went at least three rounds deep in eight of those playoff campaigns.
Last season started with a 34-20 loss at Tolar, and Crawford then disposed of fellow Central Texas foes Clifton, Meridian and Bosqueville. The Pirates went 6-0 in district and beat Italy (47-0) and Collinsville (41-21) in the first two rounds.
The Pirates faced old foe Mart in the regional round, and Crawford won, 27-20, in Waco. Crawford downed district rival De Leon (41-14) in the quarterfinal and Abernathy (42-7) in the semifinal.
Though the Pirates lost many starters from last year’s 14-2 state runner-up, they have key players returning to kickstart them on another deep playoff run.
WR Jeff Ward, MLB Lucas Steinkamp, OL/DL Clayte Hickey
Jeff Ward was the District 7-2A DI MVP last season as a wide receiver. Lucas Steinkamp was the district’s best defensive player and Clayte Hickey was first-team all-district on both offense and defense.
QB Gage Pearson, RB Garrett Dutschmann, ILB Koby Smith
Gage Pearson was a first-team all-district selection last season after passing for 2,052 yards and 26 touchdowns. Dutschmann rushed for 1,321 yards and had 163 receiving yards with 21 total touchdowns. Koby Smith was a first-team all-district selection who had 154 tackles last fall.
Crawford has firepower returning on offense with Pearson and Dutschmann operating behind linemen like Derrick Shaw, Will Worrell, Seth Kohscheen and Tanner Mitchell.
The Pirates have the same non-district foes in 2017, and the district opener on Sept. 29 at home against De Leon could determine the district championship.
The trek to the state finals are tough in any bracket in Texas, and the 2A DI route will be one of the most grueling. Standing in the way will once again be De Leon and old rival Mart, who’s projected by some to win it all this year. Abernathy will once again be good and there’s no counting out Refugio or Shiner.
It’s unlikely the president will mention this year’s state champions, but there’s no reason Crawford can’t hoist that trophy come late December.
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