By Rubin E. Grant
Homewood outside linebacker coach Carter Doyle admits to being a little distracted on Friday nights.
Instead of watching to see whether the players he coaches are carrying out their assignments, sometimes he’s caught up in looking at what the Patriots’ middle linebacker is doing.
That’s because senior Crawford Doyle is his boy.
“It’s really hard for me to watch the outside linebackers,” Carter said. “It’s a lot of fun watching (Crawford).”
Crawford Doyle has given his dad, teammates and Homewood fans plenty to see last season and this season.
He led the Patriots with 100 tackles in 2017 and is leading them in stops again this fall. He has 35 tackles, including 25 solo, in Homewood’s first five games. He also leads the team with two interceptions, both coming in a 48-6 victory against Helena.
Crawford was in on eight tackles in Homewood’s 24-0 homecoming victory against Center Point last Friday.
“He processes things so fast he doesn’t have to think, just react,” Homewood head coach Ben Berguson said. “That’s what makes him so good.”
At 5 feet,10 inches and 190 pounds Crawford is somewhat undersized for a middle linebacker, but he makes up for his lack of size with keen football acumen.
“As far as measurements, he’s not a physical specimen,” said Homewood defensive coordinator Freddy Lawrence, who also coaches inside linebackers. “He plays a lot faster than he is mainly because he understands our scheme fully. He does a great job identifying blocking schemes and getting to the football. It’s just natural-born instinct.”
That’s understandable, considering Crawford, an only child, grew up around football with a dad who was an assistant coach, first at Hoover and for the past 11 years at Homewood.
“I didn’t push him into it,” Carter said. “He’s just been so interested in football since he was old enough to walk.
“When I was at Hoover, I would take him up there during practice and he’d catch the ball and run into tackling dummies.”
Crawford started playing for a team when he was in the third grade. In middle school, he played fullback, but once he reached high school he moved to defense. “I prefer defense,” he said.
Crawford and his dad are extremely close. Carter grew up in Mobile and played football at Murphy High School. He wanted to go to West Point to play college football, but he found out he was partially deaf in his right ear, so he wound up as a student at Auburn University.
Despite their affectionate father-son relationship, the Doyle’s talk little during games.
“We don’t talk much until the game is over,” Crawford said. “Sometimes, he will give me a high five when I come to sideline. And sometimes, he’ll tell me when I don’t do something right.
“He’s tough on me, but that’s because he knows what’s best for me and he wants what’s best for me.”
At home, they seldom talk about football.
“He gets on me about my studies,” Crawford said with a laugh. “If we talk about football, it’s mainly about schemes and stuff.”
Crawford points to the guys in front of him for enabling him to make plays, especially defensive tackle Antoine McGhee.
“My defensive line is pretty good,” he said. “They take up most of the blocks, allowing me to get to the ball.
“I’m trying to get a little better each week and help the team as much as I can.”
With Crawford leading the way, Homewood, 4-1, has one of the top scoring defenses in the state, giving up only 37 points in five games. The Patriots recorded their first shutout last week in the win against Center Point, holding the Eagles to only 97 total yards.
“I think our defense is getting better every week,” Crawford said. “We really hadn’t had anybody run the ball that well against us.”
Homewood plays host to Minor at 7 p.m. Friday at Waldrop Stadium in a key Class 6A, Region 5 game.
And of course, Carter Doyle will have difficulty keeping his eyes off his son.