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Crowley Finds Handle in Golden West Backfield


Mark Crowley, a sophomore at Golden West College, figured he worked hard enough and ran well enough to win the starting tailback spot this fall.

Instead, he was told he would split time with sophomore Thomas Green. Golden West Coach Ray Shackleford has often rotated his tailbacks.

When he was in, Crowley had trouble holding onto the ball. He fumbled twice, losing one, in the season-opening 35-14 loss at Long Beach. The next week against Pasadena, he was about to cross the goal line for a touchdown but fumbled again. The game ended in a 35-35 tie.

The fumbles brought to mind a painful memory. When Crowley was a junior at Marina High, he fumbled a pitch on his first carry of the season and was sent to the bench for the rest of the game.

"It was a bad flashback," he said. "The coaches (at Golden West) said it was poor concentration and I agree."

Crowley appears to have overcome his fumble troubles. He hasn't lost the ball in the last two games and had his best game against El Camino last week.

He rushed for 89 yards in 10 carries and also caught three passes for 26 yards. He scored two touchdowns rushing and caught a pass for another one.

He said his tentative early season approach has been replaced by a desire to run through the opposition.

"It was just a lot of nervousness," he said. "But I'm over that now. This is my make-it-or-break-it year (to get a scholarship)."

Crowley, 20, figured he would already have moved on to a four-year college. Coming out of Marina, he was barely recruited despite leading the team in tackles as a linebacker. He choose Golden West, where his brother Mike had been a wide receiver. He also decided to return to tailback, a position he had played until he was needed on defense as a senior at Marina.

At the start of the 1992 season, he hurt a hamstring, then was in a motorcycle accident and missed the first half of the season. He returned in the final month to play fullback and appeared ready to make a major impact in 1993.

But Crowley became distracted by other interests, which he declined to identify, and wasn't academically eligible for the 1993 football season. He got things in order last spring and was a standout on the Golden West track team. Despite never throwing the javelin before, he finished second in the Orange Empire Conference and fourth in the State meet. He also took part in the decathlon, his first, and ended up eighth in Southern California.

"I had done seven events in one meet," Crowley said. "So I figured 10 in two days would be a piece of cake."

In tonight's Mission Conference Central Division 7 o'clock games:

Orange Coast (0-3, 0-0) vs. Golden West (0-3-1, 0-0), Orange Coast--This is Golden West Coach Ray Shackleford's final game against district rival OCC. Shackleford has a record of 14-12-2 against the Pirates. Orange Coast has won three of the last four.

Rancho Santiago (2-1, 0-0) at Riverside (1-2, 0-0)--Rancho Santiago is soaring after a 31-14 victory over Palomar and a 50-27 thrashing of previously unbeaten Long Beach last Saturday. But Riverside, the defending division champion, has an outstanding running game. The Tigers average 218 yards per game rushing. Simon Fuentes, Rancho Santiago's quarterback, is 37 of 55 for 526 yards and seven touchdowns.

Southwestern (0-3, 0-0) at Saddleback (0-3, 0-0)--Saddleback leads the all-time series, 19-3, and is badly in need of a victory after three frustrating losses. Saddleback's James Ligons leads the conference in interceptions with three.

In a non-division 7 p.m. game:

Fullerton (1-1-1) at Cerritos (3-0)--Fullerton wide receiver Steve Correa had 10 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns in the 42-41 victory over Pasadena last Saturday. He is third in the conference with 18 catches but leads in yardage with 380.

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