If the Crawford-Mart rivalry was missing one thing — one crucial thing, actually — it was a hard-hitting, high stakes playoff game that came down to the final minutes.
You can check that one off the list after Crawford’s 27-20 win over Mart on Friday night at Waco ISD Stadium in the Class 2A Division I playoffs.
It was a win that came with an all-encompassing message from Crawford coach Delbert Kelm, to anyone who wants to listen from here on out.
“Look up in the stands and you’ll see people who grew up in this program,” Kelm said. “We get ‘em when they’re just little toots and we teach them how we do it. And it’s a grind. And it’s not fun sometimes. But on nights like this you realize why we do it.
“And one more thing … to all you buddy boys out there … don’t ever bet against the Crawford Pirates. We’ll never stop fighting.”
Crawford (12-1) advances to play De Leon next week in the regional finals. The Pirates haven’t won a state title since 2004.
“Tip our hats to Crawford, they’re a great program,” Mart coach Kevin Hoffman said. “It came down to just one or two things going our way here or there because it was so close. Just frustrated with how things turned out.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Crawford capitalized on the first big mistake by either team when Mart’s Shatydrick Bailey fumbled a punt at his own 10-yard line. Crawford scored on a 1-yard touchdown run by Noah Bleything for a 7-0 lead with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
Mart answered back with big plays on its next possession, going 68 yards in six plays and less than two minutes to tie the score on a 27-yard touchdown run by Bailey.
Mart went ahead on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Jace Terry to Jalon Kirven for a 13-7 lead, but Crawford tied the score at 13-13 right before halftime on an 8-yard touchdown run by Garrett Dutschmann.
Both teams failed on two-point conversion attempts after their second touchdowns.
In the second half, it was the passing game for both teams, good or bad, that seemed to determine the outcome of the game.
Crawford took a 20-13 lead on a 1-yard run by quarterback Gage Pearson in the third quarter, but Mart answered back on a pinpoint pass from Mart’s Terry to Kirven to tie the score at 20-20 with 11:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Crawford’s run-heavy attack went to the air at opportune times, with quarterback Gage Pearson throwing for 148 yards and no pass more important than what turned out to be the game-winner on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cade Johnston with 8:49 left in the fourth quarter.
“Felt good to throw, sure, but all the credit to the offensive line,” Pearson said. “Both teams battle so hard the entire game you knew it was going to be close and come down to who could make plays at the end.”
Mart missed a huge opportunity on its next drive when Bailey dropped a wide-open pass from Terry at midfield on 3rd-and-7. The Panthers punted, and never got the ball back, with Crawford going to its running attack to wear down Mart (12-1).
Terry finished with 113 passing yards. Kirven had seven catches for 95 yards.
“It was just a battle, from the very start,” Crawford linebacker Lucas Steinkamp said. “You might be beat up after going at it like that, but you don’t feel it right now. Maybe tomorrow … but not tonight.”