AP top 10 Crawford, De Leon clash in 7-2A district opener

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File Photo: John Glaser/Texas HS Football

CRAWFORD, Texas — Friday night at Pirate Stadium, undefeated De Leon High School will make the 88-mile trip to Crawford to face a one-loss Pirate team in a battle of Associated Press top 10 teams and each program’s first District 7-2A game of the season.

Last year, the current AP No. 9 Bearcats lost only three games and made it to the quarterfinals in 2016, before falling to current AP No. 10 Pirates 41-14. The teams are 4-0 and 3-1, respectively.

De Leon Head Coach David Yeager called the recent success of his program “fruits of labor.”

“We have a great coaching staff and it takes time to establish a program,” he added. “We’ve been here six seasons and with the relationships we’ve established with those kids that were in junior high when we arrived and good talent, it’s paid off.”

AP No. 9 Crawford and AP No, De Leon High Schools will face each other in a rematch of last season’s 41-14 regional final finish. (File Photo by John Glaser/Texas HS Football)

They have outscored their opponents 182-19 and, with the help of stifling defense, pitched three shutouts this season. Still, according to De Leon’s stoic sideline leader, the Bearcats are happy to fly under the radar.

“I’m an under-the-radar type of guy and we don’t have to have a radar on our back,” Yeager said. “The Bearcats understand how important this game is and that starts with their coaches. If you want to see how good you are as a team, play Crawford.”

Crawford enters the game with an almost unblemished record despite missing several key players — including Garrett Dutchsmann, who is recovering from a broken rib sustained during the loss against Clifton. Despite the adversity of injury Delbert Kelm, the Pirates’ head coach, said he’s confident in the ability of his team.

“We just have to weather the storm,” Kelm said. “Injuries are going to happen, but we’ll be fine”.

Since turning to Kelm as its head coach in 2006, Crawford’s football program has enjoyed more than a modicum of success.

The Pirates have won more than 100 games under Kelm’s steady hand in his 11-year stint. They’ve also won more than 50 and loss less than 10 games since 2013.Crawford lost to 2A state champion and current AP No. 1 Refugio High School in the 2016 title game.

Kelm said the source of the Pirates profit has been remaining consistently able to stay focused and win by playing sound team football. He added it stems from great leadership from the coaching staff and continues with the players.

Though both head coaches have a lot of respect for one another and their teams, the matchup may become a gritty, hard-fought game with a goal of a district championship on the line.

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