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All is illuminated for Crawford

10/25/2013, 11:50pm PDT
By Don Norcross

Colts stay undefeated while playing first night home game in school history.

Crawford High football players line up for the singing of the national anthem before the first night game on campus in school history.

They were stationed on both sides of Crawford High’s football field. Temporary lights — on the 10-yard line, the 30, the 50, the 30, the 10 — pointed toward midfield, the lights connected to poles, poles hooked up to generators.

The generators hummed constantly throughout the cool night, and it was a beautiful sound.

Crawford High opened its doors in 1957, played it first varsity football season in ’58, and not until Friday did the Colts play a home football game, on campus, under the lights.

“I have goose bumps,” said Kayla Tate, Crawford Class of 2009 and a former cheerleader. “I wanna cry.”

The Colts have struggled mightily in the last eight years: eight wins, 68 losses. Losing scores of 70-0, 63-0, 62-0, 54-0. Not enough players. Forfeits.

But this year is different. After Friday night’s 35-0 victory over Vincent Memorial of Calexico, Crawford is 8-0.

Eight wins in eight games … after eight wins in eight seasons.

“I’ve got people coming up to me on campus, people who don’t normally talk to me, and they say, ‘Are you guys going all the way this year?’ ” linebacker/tight end Diego Cruz said.

“There was never that much school spirit,” linebacker/guard Luis Martinez said. “This year, everyone’s wearing Crawford shirts, painting their faces. It’s like a renaissance.”

The Colts gathered in a bunch after their latest win, encircling their emotional head coach, Michael Wright.

“Hard work,” yelled Wright.

“Pays off,” screamed the players.

“Hard work,” yelled Wright.

“Pays off.”

Did we mention it was the Colts’ homecoming? Did we mention that the Colts had scheduled homecoming for last Friday, but Calipatria called the day of the game, said it didn’t have enough players, and forfeited?

The rental company B.J. Reynolds let the Colts keep the lights, the generators, and homecoming — illuminated — was pulled off.

Among the alumni who showed up for the party: Bill Rainey, Class of ’62, and his younger brother, Chuck Rainey, Class of ’73.

Bill was the San Diego Section football player of the year in 1961, the last time the Colts won a section title in football. Chuck did OK, too — he played major league baseball for six seasons, posting a 43-35 record as a right-handed pitcher.

Of his alma mater’s first nocturnal football game on-campus and the raucous students, Chuck Rainey said, “How can it not be fun?”

“I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent on this field without a flashlight,” said Bill, so fit that he was showing off his letterman’s jacket.

“Coming back here,” Chuck said, “it’s just about the memories.”

The Crawford football team, 2013 edition, is creating lasting memories of its own. And Wright deserves much of the credit.

Now in his second season at Crawford after going 1-10 last year, he sold the administration on creating a fourth-period football class. At a true melting-pot school, where 34 languages are spoken and football is foreign to many students, he taught kids the basics.

He moved the team into the Manzanita League, where the Colts are more competitive.

Then late Friday night, there was Wright, bringing his team back onto the field.

“Everyone get down and kiss this field goodbye,” Wright said.

And the players lay down, kissing the wet grass.

Friday night was the final time that the Colts will play on the field adjacent to campus. It’s being bulldozed soon and converted into a baseball field. The football team is moving across the street. The field won’t be ready until 2015. Crawford will play all its games on the road next season.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the new field will be engulfed in light bulbs.

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