Back's runs make music for fans of 7-0 Patterson Football: Michael Crawford is a church organist on Sundays, but check his act on game days. He's averaging 11 yards a carry and has a dozen touchdowns.

October 22, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

As an organist at his church, which he calls "the place to be," you can catch Michael Crawford with his hands on the keys just about any Sunday, bringing music to everyone's ears.

But once those hands touch the football when ninth-ranked, unbeaten Patterson plays, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Crawford is not an easy catch at all.

Witness his back-breaking 47-yard run against City on Friday night, which helped the Clippers to turn a 12-7 deficit into 27 unanswered points. Consider his four touchdowns vs. Southwestern in a 41-6 rout and two more while shellacking Poly by the same score.

But ask Crawford about his exploits, and he deflects credit to "The Man."

"God smiled on me and basically helped me to do whatever I've wanted to do," said Crawford, a 3.8 grade-point average student who jumped 6 feet, 1 inch for a regional high jump title in track this spring.

"That's why I play so fearlessly," Crawford said. "I know God's got my back."

And it appears the Clippers are back with Crawford, after failing to reach the state playoffs last season for the first time since joining the state association in 1993.

Patterson is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the City's East Division with games remaining against Northern, Lake Clifton and Mervo. Last year's league co-champs, City and Poly, are among the teams Patterson has beaten. Another victim was two-time state champ Dunbar, a runner-up in its third state final appearance last year.

With an average of 11.3 yards a carry and a team-high 12 touchdowns, Crawford has drawn interest from colleges, including Pittsburgh, Maryland and West Virginia. But he's also just one among many talented players on a team that returned 17 veterans, 13 of whom were starters.

The level of play has rivaled that of the 1994 squad, which boasted All-Metros Ryan Lewis (running back), Tyrone Bailey (lineman), Joe Mechlinski (linebacker) and Willie McGirt (quarterback).

"We've had programs in the past that were built around certain guys, but this one's really balanced and has a lot of components," said coach Roger Wrenn, who has 169 career victories in 25 years. "We've been able to either move the ball up the field on long drives or break a long one with the option or the trick plays."

Overall, the Clippers' half-triple option, half wing-T offense has scored 264 points (or 37.7 points a game) running behind Matt Bel Castro (6-3, 302), Matt Williams (6-2, 301), Greg Brown, Eric Myers and Antonio Laws.

Brian Hopson (6-feet, 190 pounds) averages 6 yards a carry and has scored six touchdowns. Brenden Williams (6-1, 190), a four-year veteran, gets 7.2 yards a carry and has seven touchdowns.

Quarterback Tremayne Lyle averages 10.6 yards a run, has three touchdowns and has thrown for 190 yards and three scores.

Defensively, the Clippers have allowed 8.2 points with two shutouts, including a 41-6 rout of a Poly squad that was ranked No. 6 during the preseason.

Senior defensive end Tyrell Ray's 12 sacks are four shy of the record established by 1980 graduate Anthony Jones, who was on the Washington Redskins' two Super Bowl-champion teams.

Others also have contributed defensively, including newcomer Rodney Price, who had three sacks against City. Hopson, also a safety, has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

At 7-3 last season, Wrenn's Clippers did not reach the Class 4A state playoffs for the first time in five seasons. The Clippers also did not win a title of any kind; in 1996, they took their fourth consecutive Class 4A city title.

The 1994 team achieved the school's first No. 1 ranking in The Sun before losing to eventual Class 4A champ North County, of Anne Arundel County, in the semifinals.

"I watched that team when I was in middle school," said four-year starting defensive back Dino Alger, who has two interceptions and four pass breakups.

"Not winning a championship for the first time since I've been here, there's just a lot of motivation from last year," Alger said. "Teams we lost to last year -- we've beaten them. We hope to take it farther."

Nominate athletes

The Baltimore Sun accepts nominations for its Athletes of the Week from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays at (410) 332-6200 or 1-800-829-8000, Ext. 6200.

Two athletes (one boy and one girl) will be selected each week and featured in Wednesday's editions. Athletes nominated must be available the next Monday to have their pictures taken. Only coaches can nominate Athletes of the Week.

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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