Not all about the numbers: Cordell Crisp puts up eye-popping stats but is focused on a state title

By Shea Stewart Published August 26, 2012 at 4:00 a.m.
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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Bald Knob quarterback Cordell Crisp.

The numbers don’t lie when detailing the so-far high school career of Bald Knob senior quarterback Cordell Crisp.

During the 10 regular season games of 2011, Crisp threw 401 passes and completed 234 of those throws (a 58.4 percent completion percentage) for 3,582 yards and 40 touchdowns. Both his passing yardage and attempts were tops in the state during the regular season, while his completions were second and touchdown passes third. He led a high-octane, spread offense that averaged 488 yards per game for the Bald Knob Bulldogs.

Crisp threw for a career-high 553 yards and seven touchdowns in a 71-46 victory over Corning in October (statistics that earned him ESPNHS Football Player of the Week honors for the Southeast). In a 49-6 victory over Piggott the next week, Crisp completed nine of 11 passes. Four for those completions were touchdowns. And during an 87-52 Bulldog victory over Harrisburg in the final regular-season game, Crisp completed 18 of 28 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns, and ran four times for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

Crisp’s junior year, which earned him a spot as a member of the 2011 Arkansas Activities Association All-State Team in Class 3A, followed a sophomore year when he threw for 3,863 yards and 47 touchdowns during a 9-3 season and was named as a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Super Sophomore team.

Crisp is good. Ridiculously good.

But those are just numbers — numbers that are in the past.

Here’s the main number Crisp is concerned with this season: being No. 1 in the state at the end of the year. Crisp and crew finished the 2011 regular season 4-6 — losing the first four games of the year, including a 66-57 shootout against Newport in Week 2 when Crisp completed 27 of 49 passes for 362 yards and five touchdowns — before losing in the first round of the playoffs to Camden Harmony Grove 36-14. The Bulldogs’ two scores in that game came on runs; not passes. It was a inauspicious ending for Crisp and the Bulldogs.

Remembering where the 2011 season ended, Crisp and the Bulldogs, led by head coach Paul Johnston, are focusing on one thing in 2012.

“Obviously, everyone wants to make the state championship game and win that,” Crisp said. “That’s what everyone works for. We’re hoping to have a great season and go deep into the playoffs. Things have to work out perfectly to get to the state championship game, and we’re hoping to give ourselves a chance to make that game and win it. Our ultimate goal is a state championship.”

Crisp has spent his offseason working on his fundamentals — footwork and throwing motion — and also improving his accuracy and arm strength. Some of that was done through the Bulldogs visiting 7-on-7 passing tournaments at Harding University and Arkansas State University. But Crisp has also spent time throwing into a net at school and throwing the football with his parents in the backyard.

Although the Bulldogs return 10 seniors overall, Crisp will be without two of his top offensive weapons: Running back Tyler Gilmore and all-conference receiver Chris Joyce both graduated. Joyce was Crisp’s top target last year, catching 60 passes for 1,178 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season. But other weapons such as senior back Trevor Hydron return.

“It’s hard to replace guys like that,” Crisp said. “They were great offensive playmakers. Tyler Gilmore’s replacement will probably be [junior] Malachi Watson and [sophomore] Tristan Falwell. Malachi is a big back. He’s probably about 230 of solid muscle. He’s going to be tough to bring down. … Tristan is more of an open-field, speed guy. Replacing Chris Joyce, ... we haven’t found that one go-to guy, but what we’ve found at the receiver position is that we are solid all the way across. We have quite a bit of depth. All four receiver spots are filled with guys who run good routes and can catch the ball.”

The repetitions of August practice were spent solidifying a trust between Crisp and his receiving targets, an aspect Crisp said he needed to improve upon.

“I think we could be more explosive,” he said. “I need to trust my receivers more. The more I trust my receivers, the more chances I can take.”

Crisp, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 190 pounds, is entering his third year as the starting quarterback at Bald Knob. He’s become a leader on and off the field.

In the classroom, Crisp notes he is a “fan of any kind of math.” He sports a 3.9 grade-point average and a 30 ACT score with plans of majoring in either kinesiology or physical therapy in college. On the football field, he uses those smarts. He’s learned to read defenses. And he understands the importance of keeping players upbeat and being a positive influence.

While colleges haven’t extended any solid football scholarships yet, Crisp is focused on his final high school season. Though he is a total team player, there’s one personal goal Crisp has for 2012: breaking the 10,000 passing-yards mark for his career, something only seven Arkansas high school quarterbacks have ever done.

“I’m around 7,500 yards right now,” he said. “But I don’t go into games thinking about that. I think about whatever it takes to win. It still comes down to not so much about stats but about victories. More victories than stats.”

Night cops reporter Shea Stewart can be reached at 501-378-3598 or sstewart@arkansasonline.com.

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