Indiana's poorest county might lose its only football team — and its hope – IndyStar


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Crawford County Wolfpack’s football team isn’t very big. The area struggles with poverty. Watch how the football team made it through the 2019 season.
Mykal McEldowney, IndyStar

MARENGO — The Crawford County football team gathers on the sideline. Fifteen kids are dressed in uniform. 

On the other sideline is Evansville Mater Dei. They brought half the team for the Oct. 25 matchup: 70 kids.

Seventy.

Compared with Crawford County’s 15. 

In Hollywood, Crawford County would pull off the upset. But the Wolfpack players know. Their coach knows. The fans know.

“This isn’t a Disney movie,” Crawford County Wolfpack coach Jeremy Reynolds would say before the game.

At one point, Mater Dei touches the ball five times and scores four times, a microcosm of what has happened all season. The Wolfpack team never really stood a chance, but they showed up anyway.

This story doesn’t end with the players triumphantly carrying Reynolds off the field. In fact, this story doesn’t have much of an ending at all. Instead, uncertainty lingers.

What happens if a football team goes away? And what if that team is the only thing that gives a small group of kids hope?

“It’s a season on the brink,” Crawford County athletic director Jerry Hanger would later say. “Where we’re going from here is still up in question.”

‘We’re going to win some games’

Crawford County high is a school of 457 students in a town of 814 residents. The graduation rate trails the state average. Every student is eligible for free or reduced-cost  lunches. One measure by financial news website 24/7 Wall St. ranks Crawford the poorest county in the state.

 As for the football team, the program is 16-110 since its inception in 2007.

Opportunity seems as limited on the field as off.

It’s Tuesday, the second day of team camp. On Monday, practice started at 6 p.m. Some kids showed up at 6 p.m. Some didn’t show up at all.

“Many of the freshman didn’t think it started until today,” Reynolds says. “They just didn’t understand. We’ll have to do a lot of the same stuff we did yesterday again today. Yesterday, we started at 6. They showed up at 6. They didn’t understand. They’ve never played before. We’ll get those kids their pads.”

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Scott Maupin gets a drink of water after a round of sprints at Crawford County High School on July 9, 2019. (Photo: Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

The team goes outside to run. It’s a scorching July day. Keith Brooks, the team’s quarterback, paces the team. Most lag behind.

When it’s time to get water, there is no water, not in a traditional Gatorade cooler sense. The group trudges over to a spigot in the ground. They drink from a hose.

Later, one kid starts vomiting off to the side.

They lift weights inside, then head outside to the practice field, which is not much of a field at all but a patch of open grass with a goal post on one end. A cross country course runs through the middle.

The team is stretching, and players are bantering with Reynolds. Reynolds gives senior fullback Garrett Stout a hard time.

“Cut me some slack, coach,” Stout says. “I worked 40 hours this week.”

After a few hours, Reynolds tries to teach a few plays. The team lines up. TJ Donnelly, a senior, gets the coach’s attention.

“Coach, get another person in here,” he says, motioning to a kid next to him. “His helmet is …”

“No, we don’t have another person,” Reynolds cuts him off. “This is what we’ve got. Come hell or high water, we’re going to try to run these five plays.”

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