Otto Crawford grew up around the defensive side of football. He played nose guard, linebacker and defensive back all during his high school days at Moss Point before moving on to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Southern Miss.
Flash forward to today, and Crawford’s focus now lies on exposing defenses. He’s entering his fourth season as North Forrest’s offensive coordinator under head coach Anthony Dillon.
“As I grew old to love the game more, I established that understanding and knowledge of how can I trick defensive guys,” Crawford said. “That’s what made me love it more.”
Despite the loss of a two-year starter at quarterback in Daylyn Croom, Crawford’s offense is gearing up for another year with high expectations. With Croom at the helm, North Forrest averaged 34 points per game in 2017 as the Eagles went 9-5 and made it to the third round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“I can’t say enough about Daylyn and the things he did for us the past 2-3 years,” Crawford said.
That being said, Crawford doesn’t expect much of a drop-off with Croom’s replacement, senior Leon Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and also a basketball standout at North Forrest. Jones, the team’s No. 2 wide receiver a season ago, says he’s been waiting patiently for his time to come under center. Now it’s here.
“Playing quarterback is a big job, but I’m ready for it,” Jones said.
“They’re different quarterbacks,” Crawford added. “Leon is much bigger and his arm may be a little bit stronger. Croom was a much more savvy quarterback and made some throws that a lot of kids wouldn’t be able to do on a high school level.”
Last season, Croom developed a special connection with a breakout star in freshman Rhyen Brisco, who finished the year with eye-popping numbers. His 57 catches for 1061 yards were both team-leading, and his 18 touchdown catches ranked first in the state, according to MaxPreps.
Brisco returns as does Eric Robinson, who played extensively at North Forrest as a freshman in 2016 before transferring to PCS his sophomore year. Robinson’s made plays at running back and/or wide receiver wherever he’s played. That’s expected to continue during his upcoming junior season back with the Eagles.
“I say it a lot, I put those guys [Robinson and Brisco] against anybody in the state any day,” Crawford said. “They’re super explosive guys.”
Jones’ face lit up as he was reminded the dynamic duo will be on his side of the field at the same time.
“That’s a combination right there,” Jones said with a grin. “I’m just ready for the season and to see what we’ve got in store.”
The Eagles will open the 2018 season on Friday, Aug. 17 at Lumberton. They full well expect to compete with 2A powers and familiar foes like Collins and Taylorsville by season’s end. Both teams picked up wins against the Eagles a season ago. The Tartars knocked them out of the postseason on the way to winning it all.
“You have to pay your respect to those guys,” Crawford said. “Last year, Collins outright won our district, and Taylorsville handled their business. It’s not given to those guys, they earned it outright. Our guys, they have business to handle. We got a lot of steps to make this year.”
A lot of it will fall on Crawford’s offense and its ability to light up the scoreboard like in year’s past.
“I’m eager to see how we pan out and display things,” Crawford added. “The sky’s the limit if we can put it all together and mesh at the right time.”
You can read more on the Eagles in our upcoming football preview magazine, which is set to release in August.