HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Pittman, Crane enter 2023 with more familiarity

CRANE At this time last year, Crane head coach Michael Pittman was still getting to know his staff and players.

Pittman had been named the Golden Cranes’ new head coach and athletic director late last summer and had little time to get everyone up to speed.

Despite that, Crane salvaged an 8-4 overall record, which included an undefeated 6-0 showing in district 1-3A DII in 2022.

Now, Pittman returns with a full offseason under his belt.

“I don’t know if it’s less stressful but it’s easier as far as coming in and knowing all the kids,” Pittman said in comparing this season to last year. “At this time last year, before the first day, I knew very few of the kids. That learning curve will be a little easier this year because we’ve built the relationships with these players and we know more their strengths and weaknesses and what might work with a particular player. … it also helps that they now know me too. It works both ways.”

He’s hopeful that his players can add another district crown.

“I’m really excited,” Pittman said. “Every year, about this time, you start getting excited to see what you can put out on the field. We have a good group of young kids. We graduated some good players but we have a good group coming back and we’re excited to see what they can do.”

The Golden Cranes return four players on offense and six on defense from a team that made it to the area round of the playoffs last year.

Among the players coming back are wide receivers Trey Larson and Carlos Garcia.

Then there’s Terrance Godette on the line.

“Godette started last year for us,” Pittman said. “We expect big things out of him.”

Because the Golden Cranes play in a four-team district (along with Alpine, Compass Academy and Tornillo), they’re playoff spot is already secured.

However, District 1-3A DII has a double round-robin format this year (just like last year), meaning that it’s one of the few districts where each team plays everyone twice.

Pittman knows just how tough it is to beat the same team twice as the Golden Cranes managed to do that last season.

“I think it’s a unique situation,” Pittman said. “Playing each team twice, that can definitely make it challenging because sometimes when you play somebody twice, you get a chance to figure them out but they also get a chance to figure you out. Sometimes, I think just momentum and stuff will have something to do with it. You’re not going to play somebody the first time and have a lot of success and sometimes, that can be a little bit of a trap. The next time you play them, they’re a little more prepared. Maybe it wasn’t your night or their night the first time but the next time you play them, it’s a totally different team you’re facing. That’s a challenge. Alpine and Compass and Tornillo, I think most of them will be better this year.”

Crane will begin its season on the road against rivals McCamey in a nondistrict clash at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25.

The Golden Cranes’ nondistrict schedule includes a trip to Kermit on Sept. 1 before consecutive home games against Reagan County on Sept. 8 and Fort Stockton on Sept. 15.

“I think it’s a competitive schedule,” Pittman said. “You have McCamey and Fort Stockton and Kermit. Kermit has a new coach with Fellows coming in from Alpine so there’s some familiarity there. We also have Reagan County back too. I look forward to all four of those games being competitive. I don’t think we have any game that we can take off and expect an easy game.”

Crane will start district play on the road against Tornillo on Sept. 22.

“We’re just ready to go,” Pittman said. “This was the first time that I started practice in July. We’ll have to get our kids in shape, especially with the heat and stuff they’ve been dealing with. We’ll have to take those considerations. But we’re excited to go and hopefully we can stay healthy and get some of our younger kids up to speed and have a successful year.”