Hillcrest Loses Two Stars Ahead of Playoffs
Ethan Crawford has officially been ruled out for the rest of his senior season. The three-star prospect exited Hillcrest's tilt with McAdory early after appearing to injure his ankle on the Patriots' first drive of the game.
Crawford and his family had hopes it would just be a sprain and he'd be able to return for postseason play, but an MRI on Saturday morning showed the Crawford had torn his ACL.
"It's heartbreaking, man, Words can't describe it," said Ethan Crawford, Sr., the quarterback's father. "Hillcrest was - right now, first and foremost, he wanted to finish it off. But hey, God had a different plan, man, and when his plan changes, we have to change with it."
Crawford will be having surgery performed Thursday by Dr. E. Lyle Cain, Jr. of the highly regarded Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center. His parents expressed that the family has immense gratitude for Crawford's ability to work with the practice.
"Having Dr. Cain and his medical staff taking over is a blessing in of itself. I know people wait two or three years to even get an appointment," said Crawford, Sr. "So for us to be having a surgery Thursday is just a blessing."
Crawford is currently committed to play at Southern Mississippi and head coach Will Hall has already reached out to offer the school's facilities to help him rehab the injury.
Per Crawford's mother, Lakesha Crawford, his medical team anticipates he will be able to play in Southern Mississippi's spring game.
"He's in the best of care at Andrews with Dr. Cain, and the predicted recovery is substantially less with high technology and based on Ethan's determination," said Lakesha Crawford.
As for Crawford's coaches and teammates, they have a playoff game to prepare for, and their goal of getting back to the 6A state championship hasn't changed.
"[The goal] hasn't changed. That's still the absolute ultimate goal. Without a question [the injury] is a huge, huge blow to us. He's been the leader in our clubhouse for the last two years, and certainly on the field as well," said Patriot head coach Jamie Mitchell. "You just don't replace a guy like that. What our hope is is that some other kids will pick up in some other areas."
"I'll tell you this, just from practice yesterday, there's no back-up in these guys. I know this much: whoever is in the way is gonna get the very best they've got."
Hillcrest lost star running back Ja'Marian Johnson, as well, against McAdory. He went down late in the 4th quarter with what is now known to be a high ankle sprain. Johnson, a cousin of NFL running back Brian Robinson, Jr., is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, likely eliminating him from postseason play, as well.
"You couldn't have cooked a worse recipe for us to lose those two guys on the offensive side. That's as damaging as it can get for us," said Mitchell. "We're just hoping he'll be quick healer."
There is hope for that. On Thursday, Johnson will be going to see Dr. Norman Waldrop, also of Andrews Sports Medicine, who famously performed the "tightrope" ankle surgery on Tua Tagovailoa in 2018 in order for him to return from an ankle sprain in the SEC Championship Game in time for the College Football Playoff.
"I feel like both of them are in the best hands, probably in the world," said Mitchell. "When you talk about an ankle specialist and a knee specialist, you're not gonna find better than those two guys."
Backup sophomore quarterback Bryson Kimbrough will start in Crawford's stead for Hillcrest in the playoffs.
"Ethan was at practice yesterday and he will provide every ounce of leadership that he can. It's just who he is," said Mitchell. "I told him multiple times he's gonna be Bryson's biggest coach and biggest teacher."
"We are very fortunate that we have Bryson. He's gonna be a future division one player himself. The good thing is he's played a lot of football with the leads we've had this year. He is certainly capable. He's not Ethan Crawford, he doesn't need to try to be, he needs to be Bryson Kimbrough. I think he can do that and I certainly think he can manage what we need to do on offense."
Crawford finished his senior year 56/94 on pass attempts for 1,072 yard, 13 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. On the ground, he carried the ball 91 times for 794 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Johnson had quite the year, himself. He carried the ball 120 times for 896 yards and 20 scores.
Hillcrest's first playoff game will be at home against Calera High School.
Hillcrest vs. Central
Football Practice - 10/18/2022