Football: McHenry's Braden Crowley poised for another big year

Senior could wind up at QB, RB, WR on game day

Quarterback Braden Crowley receives the snap during practice at McHenry West on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, in McHenry. Rain caused practice to be held inside in the morning.
Quarterback Braden Crowley receives the snap during practice at McHenry West on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018, in McHenry. Rain caused practice to be held inside in the morning.

McHENRY – McHenry’s black helmets were all the same except for one. Braden Crowley’s helmet had a bright orange stripe across the middle.

The senior was the first Warrior to earn his stripe after the opening practice of the 2018 season. It then fell to Crowley to select which of his teammates would earn their stripes after practice No. 2.

“That stripe looks good on you,” first-year head coach Jon Niemic told Crowley as practice resumed after a rain delay Monday.

It came as little surprise that Crowley earned the first stripe of 2018.

As a junior last season, he rushed for 555 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries. He also caught 17 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns.

“Braden Crowley is a three-year starter, and he’s expected to act like that,” Niemic said. “I was joking with him: ‘You’re expected to act like a redshirt senior on a college team.’ He knows that.”

At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Crowley is the smallest member of McHenry’s “1,000-pound club” in the weight room. Only six players on the team have collected 1,000 pounds combined in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Crowley said he squatted 345 pounds, bench pressed 250 pounds and deadlifted 405 pounds.

In his own words, it’s all about “being efficient.”

“All my friends love to lift,” Crowley said. “Even the ones who don’t play football. I just hang around them, and that’s what they do.”

The running back and wide receiver will try to bring his efficiency to a new position: quarterback. Crowley and junior Chris Zieba are battling for the starting QB job.

The last time Crowley played quarterback full time was in eighth grade. Even though he lives in McHenry, Crowley came up through Crystal Lake’s Jr. Wolves program, where he ran the triple-option offense.

McHenry’s offense in recent years has been more of a college-style read option with the quarterback lining up in the shotgun or pistol. Crowley might be the ideal weapon to run such an attack.

“You don’t have to coach him up too much with some of our reads and some of our inside zone things,” Niemic said. “He’s really good with the footwork because he spent those years in the Jr. Wolves program.”

The senior is enjoying being back at the position.

“I just like being in control,” Crowley said. “Something about it is really fun. I’m comfortable with it. It’s second nature.”

Crowley took reps at QB and in the wildcat last year in practice, but McHenry never used him there. He started last year as a receiver and took more handoffs as the season wore on.

Crowley doesn’t care where he ends up when the Warriors open the season Aug. 24 against Huntley. He will be somewhere on the field, whether it’s quarterback, running back or receiver.

Senior tight end Jimmy Scheri called Crowley “a great teammate.”

“The work he puts in shows,” Scheri said. “He works hard in the weight room, works hard on the field. He’s a really good quarterback. Anywhere you put him, he’s a great athlete.”

Also a cornerback on defense, Crowley should be on the field a lot this season.

“Another year of experience, more playing time,” Crowley said. “Being out there makes you feel more confident for this year. I’ve already been out there so much.”

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