Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts on the first four inductees into the Strathmore Football Hall of Fame.
Strathmore High School has a rich football history and on Saturday, Aug. 8, that history will be celebrated at the inaugural Strathmore Football Hall of Fame banquet
Spartan head football coach Jeromy Blackwell announced the first inductees into the Hall will be Jerry Crawford, Matt Gartung, Joe McCowen and Dave McDaniel.
Crawford was a player, teacher, coach and major supporter of Strathmore Union High School for half of a century. He graduated from Strathmore High School in 1958.
He played four years of football. As a freshman and sophomore, he was on the B team. As a sophomore, the team won the league championship. He played varsity his final two years of high school and was all-conference his senior season when the team went 7-1. He played both ways all four years as a running back and defensive back.
After graduation, he played in the Valley All-Star Game in Fresno as a running back and defensive back.
He also played four years of basketball and was on four championship teams. He was all conference his senior season.
Because of athletic ability, and how high he could jump, Crawford played center on the C and B teams. He is 5-foot-9 and could dunk a basketball from a standing position under the rim.
He also competed in track and baseball all four years, earning all-conference in baseball his sophomore and senior seasons. He won the Valley discus title his junior year.
Crawford went on to Porterville Junior College where he played two years of football, basketball and baseball, earning second team all-league in baseball. He was starting running back his sophomore season and starting point guard both years.
He then went on to UC Santa Barbara where he played baseball for a year.
After getting his degree, he returned to Strathmore High as a teacher and coach from 1967-75. He coached football, basketball and J.V. baseball from 1967 thru 1975, including eight years as an assistant varsity football coach and nine years as head varsity basketball coach.
In 1988, when Strathmore High had the longest losing streak in the state, Crawford and Joe Vidrio got involved with the booster program. They started an annual golf tournament and a bingo program, and in 1988 they founded the town’s first-ever youth football program. Four years later in 1992, due in large part to the youth program and the funds raised by the booster program, the school won the Valley Championship.
Crawford will go down in infamy for when he was the announcer for Strathmore football and made this call in the 1992 Valley Championship game against Fowler, said his son Duke.
“The lead went back and forth the entire game, and Strathmore was up by three with a couple minutes remaining. Fowler had the ball, fourth and long. Fowler lined up to punt. The entire sideline and the entire town knew it was going to be a fake punt. It got quiet before the ball was snapped. Over the mic, he says: ‘Deep in their own territory, Fowler is lined up in punt formation, but guys, it’s going to be a fake.’
“I remember kneeling on my helmet next to Coach McDaniel on the sideline. We both looked at each other like ‘what the heck did he just say,’ then shrugged and went back to watching the game. I think everyone watching was a little stunned. The ball was snapped, and Traeger Cotton came off the end and tackled the punter. We took possession and three kneel downs later, the game was over.
“The next day in the paper, Fowler’s coach was quoted as saying something along the lines of: ‘We got homered, the fans were against us, the refs were against us, hell, the announcer was even calling our plays from the booth.’”
Crawford’s mother Maxine and father Floyd were diehard Strathmore fans. No matter how far away the games were played, Maxine never missed one of her kids’ or grandkids’ game.
He met his wife, Anneli Mittman, while teaching at Strathmore High School and they were married in 1971. Anneli was also a coach, leading the girls volleyball team to a Valley championship in the early 1980s. She went on to become principal and superintendent at Strathmore. The couple is retired and live in Morro Bay.
Their sons, Duke and Eric Crawford, both lettered in four sports each year in high school.
Joe McCowen played football for Strathmore High School in the early 1970s. He was legendary as a defensive lineman, creating havoc for offenses.
In 1973, he was voted All-Sierra League Conference on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He went on to play at Porterville College and was voted All-State and All-American.
McCowen wasn’t just a great player. He was also a great example for the coming generation, Blackwell said.
Rick Anderson, a teammate of McCowen’s at Porterville College and a recent retiree from Strathmore High School, said McCowen was a great example of the type of person he modeled himself after as a player.
Another Strathmore Hall-of-Famer, Dave McDaniel, speaks highly of McCowen as a player, colleague and friend. “He was a big force to be reckoned with.”
McCowen was highly recruited by Oregon State and Fresno State. He went on to manage his family’s very successful agriculture business, and founded McCowen Trenching.
He married his high school sweetheart, Darlene, and they have raised a family. Blackwell said McCowen is the very definition of Spartan work ethic and character.
The banquet will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 8 at the Joe Lopez ranch at 23798 Ave. 200. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased by calling Blackwell at 967-0847.
Posted: Friday, July 17, 2015 6:00 am | Updated: 9:20 am, Fri Jul 17, 2015.
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