A year removed from a 3-4 record with a first round exit, Crawford Long Middle School is back on top heading into the Atlanta Public School playoffs unbeaten. The Tigers are balanced on both sides of the ball with playmakers all over the field. Crawford finished the regular season 6-0 when the beat Brown Middle 48-6. Coach Brandon credits their 2018 turnaround to the development of returning players in addition to the offseason conditioning over the summer.
“We were young and in a rebuilding stage last year, but we knew this fall would be special with a lot of kids returning as eighth graders. We started early in June and July this offseason. That’s the main thing I credit the success, just our conditioning, our boys are in shape,” explained Coach Brandon. “We had an idea of how good this team could be when we started. So winning the championship has always been the goal since day one. This team may be the most talented I’ve coached at Crawford Long. We just have so much depth this season.”
The Tiger’s 16-6 victory over Bunche Middle School had everyone buying in. “That’s the game I knew we were different this year”, said Coach Brandon. “Bunche is 5-1 with their only loss coming to us. I knew they were one of the better team in APS. They’re a team that played a lot of 7th graders last season so we knew they would be competitive.”
An explosive playmaker for Crawford is two-way athlete Ricky Lee. The talented quarterback and defensive back is a weapon in every phase of the game; scoring touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams this season. “He may be the best skill player in all of APS. He’s an electric kid that gets up the field every chance he gets. I believe he is the best in APS.”
Desmond Grant is a speedster that plays wide receiver and corner for the Tigers. “Grant was a 100 and 200 meter champion in APS last season. He has blazing speed so we like to get him involved”, said Coach Brandon.
While the skill-players certainly standout for Crawford, their work inside the trenches is a big reason for their success. Offensive tackle Savon Edwards is 6’4 and 260lbs anchoring the left side of the line. “We have two offensive tackles that we feel our best in the APS. Edwards is an athletic freak that’s high school ready as far as size and skill goes. Tony Gamble our right tackle does an outstanding job as well, those two have to be the best in the city.”
Defensively Crawford Long has smothered teams all season. The defensive line wreaks havoc on opposing offenses by disrupting the play before it starts. Through six games, the Tigers have only allowed 24 total points this season. “We’re playing lights out on that side of the ball. It’s hard for a play to get to our second level because of our line. I’ve never had a middle school defensive line like this.” Defensive end Raylene Magby has been a force in 2018 as one of the top players in APS.
Crawford Long is aiming for their first APS Championship since the 2014 season.