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High School Football

Football: Oldest rivalry in Williamson County takes center stage with heavy hearts

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Franklin at Brentwood Tease

DJ Durham of Franklin runs into Spencer Rich of Brentwood during the regular season meeting between the two Williamson County programs. They square off again with a Class 6A state semifinal berth up for grabs in the fifth quarterfinal meeting since 2002 on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 in Brentwood.  

This past month or so has been loaded with ups and downs for the Crawford family. On the football field, Brentwood High School coaches Ron and Tom Crawford – the father-son sidelines duo – have helped guide a short-handed Bruins team to a third consecutive Region 6-6A title and a Class 6A quarterfinal berth for a third season in a row.

Brentwood hosts Franklin in the oldest rivalry in Williamson County Friday with a state semifinal berth up for grabs.

Off the field, beloved Brentwood football matriarch Pat Crawford – Tom’s wife of more than 60 years and Ron’s mother – came down with COVID-19 and pneumonia. After a valiant fight, Pat passed away Tuesday evening. She was 80.

“We are obviously heart-broken and sad, but we have felt a lot of love from our community and beyond,” Ron Crawford said Wednesday. “We are grateful for everybody that has reached out to us. We are loved and mom was loved.”

With Pat in the hospital for a second week in a row fighting, the Bruins recorded an emotional win by rallying to beat Independence 31-28 last week with a touchdown in the final 18 seconds when Cade Granzow flipped a desperation, underhand pass to Luke Fontechia for the go-ahead score – one that made ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays last week.

“You know, we have gotten a lot of nice thoughts and prayers from our community and beyond and for that we are very grateful,” Crawford said. "For all four of us (Region 6-6A teams) to be in it and have the same score, these kids are just playing great right now. It's pretty wild how both games came down to the end like that." 

The veteran coach will lead his team against old rival Franklin in the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2009 on Friday. The Bruins are trying to get past the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2016 in a meeting loaded with history.

Coach Donnie Webb and his Admirals finished with an identical 31-28 win at Ravenwood last week and scored the go-ahead touchdown – a 17-yard Connor Beavon to Taylor Spierto touchdown – with four seconds left to reach the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2016. Webb said he is excited his team can add another chapter to the storied meetings between the two schools.

“This is just exciting because Franklin and Brentwood are both in the quarterfinals again,” Webb said. “It brings back some great memories and history and I’m just excited this generation of kids gets to be a part of this.”

Between 2002 and 2011, the two programs battled on the football field 16 times with four quarterfinal matchups. Each team won two games in those deep postseason meetings, including a 21-20 Brentwood win in 2009 – the last such quarterfinal showdown. The winner of three of those four quarterfinal matchups also advanced to the state championship.

“This rivalry with Franklin, it’s the right kind and it’s played the right way,” Crawford said. “It’s our honor to play these guys again. We have nothing but respect for Franklin, coach Donnie and the way he does things.”

The history is rich over the last couple decades, but it runs even deeper and further back between the pair. When Brentwood opened in 1982, the majority of students came from Franklin. That separation has developed into what longtime Williamson Herald sports writer Joe Williams called “a divorce where both parents get along for the sake of the kids, but they both want to be the absolute favorite parent. In every possible category.” For 38 years.

Some of that may have been lost in the most recent meetings, including this year’s 42-21 Brentwood win at home, but Friday is a chance where much of it can resurface all over again in a fight to get to the semifinals as both teams are simply finding ways to win.

Franklin went on the road to defeat top-seeded and Region 5-6A champion Smyrna in the first round. Brentwood leaned on backup quarterback Davis White and overcame the absence of dozens of players due to COVID-19 tracing to get past Cane Ridge.

“We have been here and there is consistency in that, but we want these kids to see what it’s like to practice over Thanksgiving,” Crawford said.

Webb had a similar holiday reference.

“Friday last week was kind of like Christmas for us,” he explained. “We got that big gift – the one we wanted – but now it’s two days later and we want something else and it’s right in front of us.”

Webb said his team will have to tackle better. He said the Admirals were “bullied” on the outside. Franklin will have to do a better job on the perimeter, he said.

Crawford said that after watching film – especially from the last three games where Beavon has guided a potent aerial attack with more than 300 yards passing in each win – his team will be prepared as well as they could.

“Man, they have improved a ton and if you go back, it was turnovers that got them against us, not necessarily the Bruins,” he admitted. “They are just playing really good football right now, but like them, we have worked very hard to get to this point.”

As both teams will be honoring Pat Crawford – Webb added that he is offering his prayers for the Crawford family – Friday will look a lot like it did years ago and in time where a global pandemic has just hit closer to home more than ever.

“As bad and as crazy as 2020 has been, this is the way it’s supposed to be,” Webb said. “Franklin versus Brentwood.”

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at James C. Parker Stadium and Mr. Parker, Brentwood's first principal, will be there for his 451st consecutive football game following his Bruins.

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