Crosby out earlier than expected, plans return next year

November 25, 2017

Jeff Riordan didn’t know what to do with himself.

He expected to work straight through the Thanksgiving holiday because his Crosby teams always had, making it to at least the second round of the playoffs in his first five seasons at the helm.

That’s where a coach’s wife steps in to save the week, again.

Riordan’s better half, Mandy, quickly put together a family vacation around turkey day, including a trip to Sea World in San Antonio and a stop in Austin for Texas and Texas Tech at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

“That’s the bittersweet thing about it,” he said. “You wish you were still playing, but you get to go do some family stuff.

“It keeps my mind off (the playoffs).”

The Cougars would have played at NRG Stadium if they’d beaten Port Neches-Groves.

But they lost in the first round for the first time since 2011, the year before Riordan arrived from Sulphur Springs, falling 72-69 in a shootout, despite racking up more than 800 total yards (805).

The loss was unexpected, for sure, but the high score wasn’t.

“I called it,” Riordan said.

“They’re very good on offense, and we had a lot of injuries this year on defense. We were playing with fifth-, sixth- and seventh-string players at some positions due to injuries, and I knew they were very good offensively and we were very good offensively. We’d been able to score pretty much at will all year.”

PN-G went on to beat Texas City 24-17 at NRG for a spot in the regional semifinals.

Crosby’s planning for next year after coming up short in one of the highest-scoring games in playoff history.

It reminded Riordan of Sulphur Springs’ 69-49 win over Dayton in the Class 4A Division II final in 2008, when Riordan still was the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator, in a game that boasted 1,402 combined yards.

Only that time, he was on the winning side of it.

Crosby and PN-G combined for 1,443 yards and 20 touchdowns in a back-and-forth battle that went down the final seconds.

By the end of it, up was down and down was up.

With Riordan realizing the last team with the ball probably would win, and nursing a 69-64 with 3 minutes left, he asked his players not to tackle PN-G’s ballcarrier, so they’d score faster and the Cougars would get the ball one last time, but PN-G coach Brandon Faircloth had the same idea.

He told his players not to score too fast, finally taking the last lead with 25 seconds left.

“We were in a position where we’re telling our team to let them score, and they’re telling their team not to score, because they knew whoever had the ball last was going to win it,” Riordan said.

“It was a crazy, epic high school football game.”

Star running back Craig Williams supplied nearly 400 total yards, rushing for 353 and four TDs and catching three passes for 45 yards.

He finished the season with 200 carries for 1,995 yards and 31 scores.

“He played his tail off,” Riordan said. “You could see in his eyes he wanted the ball, we fed him and he was hard to tackle and had a big night. He and Jaiden Howard and Cedric Patterson were unbelievable. Those are our big three and they played great. They did what they needed to do to win.”

Patterson racked up 216 yards and three TDs on eight receptions.

He finished their fourth straight district championship season with 68 grabs for 1,437 yards and 18 scores.

Unfortunately, both players are moving on.

Williams is committed to Baylor – although interest in him is heating up – and Patterson has an offer from New Mexico.

Howard, however, is returning, giving Crosby an experienced signal caller.

The junior completed 64.5 percent of his passes (162-of-251) for 2,687 yards and 29 touchdowns with five interceptions, and rushed for 670 yards and five scores, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Crosby also returns left tackle Chayse Todd and receiver Matthew Fagnana.

“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back, and I’m excited about what those guys are going to do this offseason and look forward to seeing what they’re going to do next year,” Riordan said.

“When you graduate talents like Craig Williams and Cedric Patterson, you’ve got some big shoes to fill, so we’ll be looking for that guy this spring and summer.”

Crosby’s defense returns lineman Jamar Hamilton, sophomore linebacker Hunter Bailey, cornerback Andre Bruno, a move-in from Elkins, and safety Zack Simon, who could end up at running back.

“We were real young on defense this year, so we’ll have a lot of experience coming back,” Riordan said.

“Those guys give us a chance of having a base … at each level.”

Jason McDaniel is a freelance writer who can be reached at jasonrmcdaniel@outlook.com.


Mascot: Cougars

Coach: Jeff Riordan, sixth season

Assistants: Johnnie Freeman, offensive coordinator; Darrell Thompson, defensive coordinator

2015: 11-1 overall, 8-0 in District 21-5A

2016: 9-3 overall, 7-1 in District 21-5A

2017: 9-2 overall, 7-1 in District 21-5A

2018: UIL realignment, which will determine the Cougars’ district home for the next two years, is in February.

Next up: Offseason.

Key returners: QB Jaiden Howard, WR Matthew Fagnana, LT Chayse Todd, DL Jamar Hamilton, LB Hunter Bailey