Dynamic Crawford propelling Southside

Published 6:39 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2016

CHOCOWINITY — Southside overcame all sorts of obstacles en route to its return to the 1-A eastern regional championship on Friday at Plymouth. Among those is the loss of two talented running backs in Lawrence Brown and Matt Baxter.

Both of them have moved on to the next level. Brown is playing Division II football for West Virginia Wesleyan, and Baxter plays Division III ball at North Carolina Wesleyan.

Losing two players that earned spots on college teams would set just about any program back, but Zikajah Crawford has done more than his fair share to make sure the Seahawks’ run-based offense is in good shape.

Well, their offense has been in more than “good shape” in the past few weeks. After a first-round defensive standoff in which he only racked up 43 yards, Crawford torched Southside’s second- and third-round foes for 501 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. He’s done so with incredible efficiency, too, as he averaged over 19 yards per touch in the last two games.

“We’ve had a running back by committee,” coach Jeff Carrow said. “It’s a system. One week one back may be bigger than the other, but Zikajah has really stepped up. He’s had an opportunity to play and put up some big games.”

Crawford saw a lot more action on the defensive side of the ball in seasons past. He played a backup role behind Brown and Baxter during their Southside careers. Even with talent like that in front of him, he still gave it his all to move up the depth chart.

“He’s always challenged for the position. He fought to get in on offense last year,” Carrow said. “I always liked that about him. He’s a real quiet and shy guy, but when he gets on the field, he wants to be there. He wants to be that guy.”

Even though Crawford only got 44 carries last year, Brown had an idea of what he was capable of.

“We put him in that position where you just have to do it,” Brown said of Crawford’s backup role last season. “On numerous occasions, he produced last year. From those situations, I saw a lot of potential for him to be a big help his senior year.”

Brown gave the team a speech before the second-round game against KIPP Pride. He told them all about not dwelling on the past, among other things.

“Not much has changed, as far as being able to put points on the board,” Brown said.

With Brown as a spectator, Crawford put a lot of those points on the board. He lit up KIPP Pride for 183 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries, and also had a 77-yard catch.

Getting back to this point took a lot of work from Crawford and the rest of the Seahawks. It’s a process that dates back to the summer. Being back in the semifinals is not lost on Crawford or anyone else, but they know the job isn’t done.

“It was an adjustment,” Crawford said. “We had to come back, get ourselves together and work out the kinks of what we didn’t do last year, but could do this year. (We hoped) to make it back to where we are now.”

The biggest test ahead is Friday. Crawford has been dynamic not just in the last few weeks, but all season. He will need to fire on all cylinders, as will the rest of the team. The Vikings are dead set on defending their state championship, but they will be hard pressed to get in the way of Crawford or the Seahawks.