Matt Crowley has emerged as one of the unsung heroes in Middleborough’s run to the Division 6 Super Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance since 1983.
His defining moment came in the South semifinals against Norwell, but the play will never appear on a stat sheet.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Sachems had just retaken the lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Evan Gwozdz. On the ensuing Norwell drive, Middleborough changed its defensive personnel, shifting Crowley from safety to defensive end with a singular objective — get to the quarterback.
Several plays later, Crowley came free off the edge, barreling into Norwell quarterback Cal Smith and forcing an errant throw that was intercepted by the Sachems. The turnover locked up a 32-22 victory. Middleborough (9-3) continued its playoff march with wins over Old Rochester (30-21) and Stoneham (27-14) to earn a trip to Foxborough and a matchup against Littleton (11-0) Saturday morning at 9.
Just as that momentum-swinging play would never appear in a game recap, Crowley’s contributions as a player for coach Pat Kingman go beyond touchdowns or tackles.
“Matt is kind of a kid that we always knew would be a good player when his time came,” said Kingman.
“He doesn’t have the gaudy stats that some of the other guys do, but if you watch on every single play, he runs his routes as hard as anyone, blocks on every single play, he does all the little things you want receivers to do.”
A reserve receiver/cornerback his first three seasons, Crowley started his first career game in Week 1 of this season at wideout.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 170-pound senior has held the job all season, providing a consistent target for Gwozdz and solid perimeter blocking for running back Jeremy Soule. But Crowley’s biggest impact came on defense, when he stepped in to play safety after Soule was sidelined at midseason with an ankle sprain.
He solidified the back end of the Sachems’ defense well enough to earn the full-time role, one that Gwozdz says is well deserved.
“Matt has worked extremely hard for the past couple years for us, and I think that’s gotten him to the point where he is now,” said Kingman. “He came up huge in the playoffs for us a few times, some big catches and big plays on defense, and he’s a soft-spoken leader. Just kind of leads by example.
“He puts the work in, and he’s done a lot to improve, playing in summer leagues and stuff like that,” added Kingman. “He’s a really smart kid, too, so we put him in a lot of different situations when we need a play.
“He doesn’t have to say a lot. The younger kids just see him go out there and bust his tail for us, and I think that inspires them.”
Crowley is a great example of a player whose contributions to his team go beyond the numbers. His quiet consistency and hard work within his role make him an essential piece of a successful team.
Awaiting the biggest game of his athletic career, the senior simply feels blessed to share the moment with teammates who he’s played with since the third grade.
“It will truly be an unreal experience,” said Crowley. “We always used to talk about it, looking up to the high school kids, so to be here now is just crazy.”Henry Brechter can be reached at email@example.com.