Springfield grad Crowe finds home at Wittenberg

While the Springfield High School graduate Crowe itched to play, he knew he would have to wait until 2015. Even so, he got a taste of the rivalry that has determined the course of Wittenberg’s season more often than not since Wabash joined the North Coast Athletic Conference in 2000.

This week, as the No. 15 Tigers (2-0) prepare for another showdown with No. 9 Wabash (2-0), Crowe’s teammates have prepared him and all the newcomers for the intensity of the rivarly.

“They say, ‘Play like your life and your family’s life is on the line,’ ” Crowe said. “Just fight tooth and nail every down. Give it all you’ve got. I tell them, ‘I’m giving you guys everything I have so we go out with four straight this year.”

A victory Saturday in Crawfordsville, Ind., would give the Tigers a leg up in their quest to win four NCAC titles in a row for the first time since they won five straight from 1997-2001. The Wittenberg-Wabash game comes earlier than ever this season, so whoever wins will have a lot of work to do in the last seven games.

Every game is a gift for Crowe. Until the Capital game Sept. 5, he hadn’t played since 2012, when he was Springfield’s fourth-leading tackler as a senior. Crowe started his collegiate career at Division II Tiffin University, redshirting as a freshman in 2013.

“Coach (Joe) Fincham recruited me out of high school,” Crowe said. “I wasn’t feeling the whole Division III thing and staying at home. Schools were looking to give me (scholarship) money. I chose to go to Tiffin. Things didn’t work out there. I didn’t like where the program was going. I talked to Coach Fincham. I’m lucky he gave me another chance. Here I am.”

Crowe said his credits didn’t transfer, so he was ineligible to play last fall as he started classes at Wittenberg. Fincham gave him the video job so he could be around the team.

Crowe started working out with the team in the offseason and practicing in the spring. He learned fast how hard the Tigers work.

“You can tell we’re fighting for a championship every Saturday,” Crowe said.

Crowe experienced winning at the start of his high school career when the Wildcats finished 6-5 and then 9-3 on teams starring future Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest. The Wildcats finished 2-8 and 1-9 in Crowe’s last two seasons. He played under three different head coaches in four seasons.

The chance to play for a winner brought him back to Springfield. Through two games, Crowe is tied with another local graduate starting at linebacker, Tecumseh’s Dustin Holmes, for the team lead with 17 tackles.

Crowe felt as if he were starting over in Pee Wee football when he took the field at Capital, but he is making up for lost time.

“I’d say he’s still shaking some rust off,” Fincham said. “He has very good natural instincts. He’s in better shape for having missed that time than what I thought he was going to be, but he’s still got plenty of room to grow, and he understands that.”

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