Crews the right man for the job at Williamsport

Chuck Crews was an outsider when he arrived in Williamsport. He didn’t have the credentials to get a fanbase starving for a winner excited. He didn’t have links to the area as some other applicants did.

Now 21 games into his tenure with the Millionaires, it’s hard not to think Crews was the right man for the job.

This past Friday night, the second-year head coach of District 4’s largest school district posed with fans for photos, hamming it up for the camera, having fun, making people smile. This Chuck Crews, the one who helped guide the Millionaires to a Wyoming Valley Conference title and the top seed in the District 2-4 6A playoffs starting Friday with Hazleton, is the same one who captured the attention of athletic director Sean McCann, principal Brandon Pardoe and former superintendent Dr. Don Adams early last year during his interview.

He’s the good-natured, amiable man who will take the time to shake every hand, accept the well-wishes and share a joke with anyone who wishes to offer it. And afterward, he’ll push all the credit for the team’s success on to his players and assistant coaches. Chuck Crews has been a perfect fit for Williamsport and Millionaire football.

Friday’s 56-23 win over Berwick was the culmination of the vision he had when he came to Williamsport after coaching both collegiately and at the high school level in the Philadelphia area. He had a team full of athletes which needed to be molded into a football team.

That molding started a year ago when the Millionaires improved upon a two-win 2014 season to a six-win 2015 season and an Eastern Conference playoff appearance. They took that next step this year as this was no longer just a collection of athletes looking for a direction, but one of the best teams Williamsport has seen in quite some time.

“We’re to the point now that we’re upset that we’re 9-1 and not 10-0,” Crews said Friday. “That’s a good thing. We’re upset that we’re not undefeated going into the playoffs. And that’s business for these guys.”

Because he was an outsider with no Williamsport ties, Crews said it took some time for the team to develop trust in he and his system. It was never contentious, but he needed to learn about the kids who were playing for him, and they needed to learn about him.

So when they were in the weight room working during the offseason, he’d sit an talk about music with his players. And when some Tupac was blaring over the PA system at Crispin Field on Friday during warm-ups, he was one of the handful of players and coaches dressed in cherry and white to be showing off a dance move or two.

Crews and his coaching staff have taught football to this group of players. But they’ve kept it all in perspective at the same time. It’s still a game. It’s supposed to be fun.

That’s why Crews isn’t business as usual when his pyrotechnic-like offense scores another touchdown. He’s there on the sidelines jumping up and celebrating with his guys.

And the relationship he’s built with his players combined with the football improvements have led to this remarkable season. The road to the District 2-4 6A title runs through Williamsport. And this is a group that believes it can be a district champion.

“We worked all summer for this,” the Millionaires’ Elliott Walker said. “We wanted to be right here. We’re in full stride.”

“Last year we slowly got better and better, and this year we’ve just been really explosive,” offensive lineman Kurt Danneker said. “This has been our goal the whole time. But our real goal is to win the district, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Friday night’s win and celebration was great, but it was merely a stepping stone in a march of expectations for this Williamsport team. And this team is guided by a man who is no longer an outsider. He’s one of the school’s own. He bleeds cherry and white like those who have been here for decades.

No longer does it matter where he’s from. No longer does his 11-29 record in four years as the head coach at Chester High School matter.

What matters is he has a team believing in themselves and believing in him. Football is fun again in Williamsport, and Chuck Crews is a big part of the reason why.

“When I got here it was like, ‘Who’s this guy?'” Crews said Friday night. “And I’m thankful that Mr. Pardoe, Mr. McCann and Dr. Adams saw something in me. My wife always told me it was in me. But this feels real good. I’m very happy to be in Williamsport.”