Although Parkdale running back Jason Crawford usually keeps to himself, he had a lot to say to coach and teacher Bob Johnson during fourth period gym class last week as he prepared to play in Saturday's first annual county all-star football game.
"Every time I saw him in class, I told him how badly I wanted to go out a winner," Crawford said. "That's all I wanted to do--to win the last high school football game I would ever play in."
Crawford did more than his part. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior ran for 188 yards and four touchdowns--including the game-winner with 59 seconds left--to lift the Johnson-coached North squad to a 41-37 comeback victory over the South team. The game, watched by a near-capacity crowd of 6,000 at Friendly High School, gave Prince George's County's top seniors recognition for a good season--and one more chance to be noticed by college recruiters.
"This was the only way it could have ended for me in a good way," said Crawford, who will make college visits to Pittsburgh, Miami and Maryland later this month after rushing for 1,310 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
"For the last three years, we missed the playoffs by just one game. I needed to know what it was like to end the season with a big win."
With his team trailing 17-14 at halftime, Crawford's five-yard touchdown run gave the North team its first lead, 21-17, midway through the third quarter. However, the South rallied.
Two plays after Crawford scored, Potomac quarterback DaJuan Crockett found Potomac teammate Glenn Thomas for a 55-yard touchdown pass to give the South team a 23-21 lead with 1 minute 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The conversion run failed.
On the ensuing kickoff, the North returned the ball to its 45 but lost a fumble on its first play. One play later, Crockett connected with Thomas on a 45-yard score to take a 30-21 lead with 1:12 left in the quarter.
Then Crawford took over.
His two-yard touchdown run with 8:14 remaining rejuvenated his team (the extra point kick failed). Less than three minutes later, Crawford made the play of the game.
From the North 31-yard line, Crawford took a handoff and followed DuVal fullback Caleb Crake, broke two tackles and outran the defense down the sideline for a 69-yard touchdown run to give the North team a 34-30 lead with 5:57 remaining.
"He's the best runner I have ever blocked for," Crake said.
The South team moved down the field on its next possession. With 4:10 left, Crockett threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game--a 13-yarder, again to Thomas--to regain the lead. But Crawford's 27-yard touchdown run with just under a minute left secured the win.
CAPTION: North team's Jason Crawford (Parkdale) maneuvers during county's all-star football game. He ran for 188 yards and four touchdowns.