As Benny Monroe Stadium is prepped for Friday’s home opener, many in the community will get their first glance at the “new-look Raiders” against a formidable Knoxville Catholic team.
It was a tough opener for Cleveland, traveling to take on the defending 6A State Champion Maryville Rebels. While the team did have some highlights in that game, Crawford has been more focused on the areas needing improvement than the areas in which the team excelled.
“I think our guys might be hearing a little too much of 'Hey, you hung in there against a really good football team,' and things like that. We didn't have a lot of that despair early in the week. Obviously, come Monday you have to put it all behind you anyway,” Crawford stated.
“The biggest lesson we got out of Friday night was that we still don't quite know what giving great effort means, what playing hard means, what running to the football means.
All those lessons are for us to grow as a team; we are still worried about what we are doing.”
Knoxville Catholic might be a better test for the Raiders. Last season the Fighting Irish went 4-6, but Crawford is still wary of a team that appears to have plenty of talent and experience this year.
Tackle to tackle, the team features five senior leaders, with another senior at starting running back and another at starting tight end.
"They have a lot of experience coming back. They can keep the ball away from you. They feature a 3-3 look on defense, which will be a little different for us. Offensively, they want to run the football," explained Crawford.
When asked if he's eager to take to Benny Monroe Stadium for his first home game at the helm of the Raiders, Crawford responded, "Without a doubt."
"We are excited about it. We hope we can give our fans, supporters and students something positive to leave this thing with."
During this week’s practices the Cleveland Raiders have placed a heavy emphasis on the building blocks, going back to the basics to help them not do things to beat themselves.
“We have to get more fundamental as a team. The team has to understand and do what they are asked to do. So, we have been focusing on doing a better job training on our fundamentals and working our kids in those areas,” Crawford said.
Overall the Raiders are healthy coming into their home game. According to the coach there are a few bruised egos on the team, but overall Cleveland is in good shape. He said the team has the possibility of returning Austin Massey at a linebacker slot.