Ron Crawford has seen a lot of football. The son of a championship coach entering his 36th season, the Brentwood head man has witnessed funny bounces and strange calls on the field with a lifetime of experiences off the field.
But nothing prepared him for 2020.
“It’s the strangest year of my life, including football,” Crawford said. “I think it’s the strangest year anybody on this earth has seen.”
After losing two-and-a-half months due to early dismissal in March, including spring practice, Crawford and his charges returned in June relegated to small groups of eight players at a time, all socially distanced. After the dead period to open July, it didn’t get any better.
“After the dead period, we were able to go to groups of 24,” said Crawford. “We introduced the football, but we’re worried – can I touch it after you touch it or do I have to wipe it off before I throw it back to you? Literally teaching football skills six feet apart and not touching.
“We were blocking trash cans; the disturbing thing about that was one day versus air it took us six plays to score.”
Don’t expect that to be a problem when the season starts. Brentwood quarterback Cade Granzow, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior, is arguably the best in the mid-state, with his first SEC offer coming from Vanderbilt recently. He also has offers from MTSU, Kansas, UAB and Costal Carolina. The versatile senior is actually committed to play baseball at Auburn.
Crawford is high on Granzow as a player, but more so as a person.
“He’s a leader and a hard worker,” the veteran coach said. “Just a quality young man.”
Granzow, who accumulated more than 2,400 yards with 30 touchdowns last year, will have several high-caliber weapons to target, including returning starters Walker Merrill, another talented senior who is committed to Tennessee and listed at 6-1, 180, and Aaron Walton, a 6-2, 200-pound junior, or he can hand-off to junior Scotty Collins (5-11, 170) or senior Luke Walters (5-9, 170). They will all depend on a developing line anchored by lone returner Luke Connor, a 5-10, 225-pound senior.
Defensively, five return to the team, but two will learn new positions, moving from defensive end to linebacker. Seniors Spencer Rich (6-2, 210) and Hayden Wilhelm (6-0, 210) make the move while classmate James Lowe (6-1, 250) will line-up at the nose. Senior John Howse (6-2, 185) returns at one corner, while junior Jake Brock (5-11, 180) and senior Baker Brummett (6-0, 177) will handle the calls at safety.
Brentwood endured some scheduling changes early and will face a talented Class 4A challenger Nolensville out of the gate with a matchup against neighborhood foe Brentwood Academy in Week 2. The meeting with the Division II-AAA Eagles will be the first since 2002, where BA claimed a 17-7 win.
2020 Brentwood Bruins at a glance
Last Season’s Record: 10-3, lost to Ravenwood in the Class 6A Quarterfinals.
Head Coach: Ron Crawford, 45-19 entering sixth season and 167-79 overall with Bruins.
Key Returners: Cade Granzow, Sr., QB; Walker Merrill, Sr., WR; John Howse, Sr., DB/WR; Luke Walters, Sr., RB; Hayden Wilhelm, Sr., LB.
Key Losses: Garner Jones, Austin Spradlin, Karson Dreier, Xiere Howard, Stone Roston.