After coming oh so close to a Class 5A state football title last year, the Crosby Cougars led by head coach Jeff Riordan have their sights set once more on a state title run. Crosby has progressively improved since Riordan’s arrival three seasons ago. From the very beginning of Riordan’s tenure, the standard for Crosby was to be playing into late December and winning their final game. Losing last year’s semi-final game 49-21 to Cedar Park was heartbreaking and motivating in one fell swoop.
“If we don’t win it all, we’re kind of disappointed. I think it’s a big gap we filled here. The expectation for me was to come here and win a state championship and that’s still the expectation, that’s the goal,” began Riordan talking about the lead in to this season. “The kids have bought in, they work hard and they’re accountable. The expectations have risen but so has their accountability and work ethic.”
This year the fifth ranked Cougars return athleticism, speed, and most of all experience on both sides of the ball. The offense returns starting quarterback Tristan Cotton. The senior signal caller threw for more than 2,600 yards in 2014, accounted for 400 plus rushing yards and a total of 29 touchdowns combined through the air and on the ground. The quarterback is not the only ground weapon for the Cougars. Running backs Carlos Grace (122 carries, 971 yards, 13 TDs) and Craig (Sqwirl)Williams (91 carries, 658 yards, 9 TDs) are expected to do much of the heavy lifting once again. Through the air Crosby has talented receivers that can go get the ball including senior Shane Hudson and junior Emanuel Netherly. Throw in Terryl Wiley and you have a receiving corps that can stretch the field and give opposing defenses fits. The offense though will only be as good as the big men in the trenches who open the holes and provide the protection. Crosby has an experienced all senior line led by 6’2” 299lb left tackle Keenan Murphy. Murphy with 16 D1 offers to ponder anchors the left side of the line. Alongside Murphy, barring injuries will be Micah Edwards, Chase Bridgeman, Jordan Tankersly and Steven Campbell.
“We are better, faster, stronger,” continues Riordan as he speaks with pride about his student-athletes. “We’ve got a lot of kids back that got where we were last year. Our best player (Keenan Murphy) has 16 D1 offers and he is our hardest worker. From the top down, we have probably eight kids with offers already on both sides of the ball.”
When it comes to defense, the Cougars are ready beginning with the linebacking corps. Between senior linebackers Jalen Harrison, Keeton Casey and Landon Brown and a secondary anchored by Joseph Pinckney’s 95 tackles and two interceptions Crosby should be second to none when it comes to slowing down opposing offenses. Six foot three, 250lb defensive end Nathan White (8 sacks, 60 plus tackles including 11 for losses) is a terror for opposing backfields. Combine the all-state lineman with Lance Cole and Danny Guarjardo and this is a defensive front should be ready for create havoc. Defensive line coach Troy Fox is confident they will deliver even against a tough go like Nederland in week zero.
“With only one returning starter to the D-line (Nathan White) we have our work cut out up front this year. I am very pleased with the response and the progress that we are getting from the guys up there. They have accepted the challenge thus far. They are still learning but I feel very confident that they are ready for Friday night lights,” said Fox about his defensive front. “Nederland is a great football team with a big offensive line. If we can establish a new line of scrimmage on their side of the ball I like our chances. Like every game, the game will be won in the trenches.”
The kicking team should not be a problem for Crosby as placekicker Juan Ochoa returns for his senior year and Cotton once again handles the punting duties.
The motto for the defending District 21-5A co-champions this year is “Plus One.” Last year they played fifteen games, went 13-2 and fell one game short of winning a state championship. Everything the team does according to Riordan is with that plus one mentality.
“This team tasted it,” concluded Riordan. “They almost got it. Getting as close as we did and not getting to where we wanted to go has made this team more hungry. Right now, this is probably the hungriest team I have ever had from an offseason till now. I think the only way this team will be happy is if we’re winning the last game in December and that means a state championship.”
August 28 – at Nederland, 7:00 pm
September 4 – Angleton, 7:00 pm
September 11 – at Barbers Hill, 7:00 pm*
September 18 – Humble, 7:00 pm*
September 26 – at Galena Park(Sat.), 2:00 pm*
October 2 – Kingwood Park, 7:00 pm*
October 9 – Open
October 16 – at Dayton, 7:00 pm*
October 23 – New Caney, 7:00 pm*
October 30 – at Porter, 7:00 pm*
November 6 – C.E. King, 7:00 pm
* Denotes district games
Written by: Lou Roesch
Photo taken by: Amanda Jordan