MARENGO — The Crawford County football team gathers on the sideline. Fifteen kids are dressed in uniform.
On the other sideline is Evansville Mater Dei. They brought half the team for the Oct. 25 matchup: 70 kids.
Compared with Crawford County’s 15.
In Hollywood, Crawford County would pull off the upset. But the Wolfpack players know. Their coach knows. The fans know.
“This isn’t a Disney movie,” Crawford County Wolfpack coach Jeremy Reynolds would say before the game.
At one point, Mater Dei touches the ball five times and scores four times, a microcosm of what has happened all season. The Wolfpack team never really stood a chance, but they showed up anyway.
This story doesn’t end with the players triumphantly carrying Reynolds off the field. In fact, this story doesn’t have much of an ending at all. Instead, uncertainty lingers.
What happens if a football team goes away? And what if that team is the only thing that gives a small group of kids hope?
“It’s a season on the brink,” Crawford County athletic director Jerry Hanger would later say. “Where we’re going from here is still up in question.”
‘We’re going to win some games’
Crawford County high is a school of 457 students in a town of 814 residents. The graduation rate trails the state average. Every student is eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. One measure by financial news website 24/7 Wall St. ranks Crawford the poorest county in the state.
As for the football team, the program is 16-110 since its inception in 2007.
Opportunity seems as limited on the field as off.
It’s Tuesday, the second day of team camp. On Monday, practice started at 6 p.m. Some kids showed up at 6 p.m. Some didn’t show up at all.
“Many of the freshman didn’t think it started until today,” Reynolds says. “They just didn’t understand. We’ll have to do a lot of the same stuff we did yesterday again today. Yesterday, we started at 6. They showed up at 6. They didn’t understand. They’ve never played before. We’ll get those kids their pads.”