Dozens of former players filled the sidelines. Now men, younger and older than I, came out to support a Brentwood High School football program that was on the brink of a state championship appearance.

The Bruins lost Friday night, 27-24, in a fourth quarter comeback by the undefeated Independence Eagles. Indy was the defending state champs, with SEC talent and a great coach in Scott Blade.

However, the former members of “Team Brentwood” left the sideline in the North end zone proud, yet disappointed, because they knew how their head coach felt.

Brentwood Football had meaning again

It’s not because the Bruins reached the semi-finals of the TSSAA 5A State Playoffs. It was because of their coach, Ron Crawford.

Coach Ron Crawford on the Brentwood sideline (USA Today).
Coach Ron Crawford on the Brentwood sideline (USA Today).

Between the years of 2002 and 2011, Ron Crawford was the face of Brentwood Football. With his charismatic personality and an unforgettable voice, he led Brentwood to the state playoffs every year he was the head coach. He started off with a bang, winning the state championship over his former team, Riverdale High School, in 2002. Following the 2011 season, he spent a three year stint in East Tennessee.

Everyone attached to the Brentwood Football family was ecstatic when he decided to return before the 2015 season.

You see, Crawford built a winning program from a talent-pool that was… well, less than impressive. It was built on respect for yourself, your teammates, and a work ethic that would drive other teams into the ground.

Brentwood rarely had players recruited to top college football programs. Of course, there were players who earned their way to the next level, like former Ohio Bobcat QB (and current Director of Player Personnel at Vanderbilt) Austen Everson, former New England Patriot guard Thomas Welch, current Green Bay Packers guard Lucas Patrick, and some others. Several of Crawford’s players made it to college football. But, that’s not near the most important of Crawford’s accomplishments.

Ron Crawford (left) and his father Tom are back at Brentwood High coaching together (Brentwood Home Page).
Ron Crawford (left) and his father Tom are back at Brentwood High coaching together (Brentwood Home Page).

Crawford’s care for his athletes brought them back to the sidelines on a chilly Friday night in Brentwood, hoping for a chance to see their coach lead his new Brentwood team to a state championship.

Matt Hayes, Robert Stone, Brian Richardson, Payton Fugate, Jacob Towry, Ian Smith, Derek Faulkner, William and Hunter Schmeisser, Chase Lyle, Tommy Parrish, Michael Morris, Robby Dupuis, Michael DuGan, Cameron Croy, Alex Guth, Graham Slaughter, Stephen Hall, my younger brother Ethan Stanley, and I were just a handful of Bruins who returned for this game. I know there were many others whom I didn’t get a chance to see. But, every single one of these men came back to see Coach Crawford’s team fight for a chance at the State Title.

Ron Crawford means a lot to the Brentwood High School community. After the loss, I shook his hand and said: “Great season. A lot of formers were here.”

We came back because of you, Coach. You will always be one of the best things that happened in our lives. You taught us discipline, dedication and teamwork. And, we’re glad that future Brentwood Bruins are getting the same treatment.

Ron Crawford told my senior class, in November of 2007, after a playoff loss at Hunter’s Lane, that he would “always be our football coach”. He was right. And, the City of Brentwood couldn’t be more proud.

Follow Austin Stanley on Twitter @AustinStanley81.