Is Duarte heading toward extinction? …

Here’s my column from Friday, in case you missed it.

It’s been just more than a season and a half since Duarte principal Eric Barba fired varsity football coach Wardell Crutchfield Jr. because Barba wanted to “go in a different direction.”

The Falcons have played 17 games since then and lost all of them. If the direction Barba wanted to take the program was south, then he’s succeeded in a big way.

Duarte was no ordinary football program when Crutchfield was at the helm. The Falcons, after lying dormant for years, sprung back to life when Crutchfield became head coach in 2004.

The team won league titles and playoff games. Even better, it sent offensive lineman Mike Harris to UCLA, defensive back Jermaine Thomas to Fresno State, running back Chris Harris to Utah St., receiver Corey Fluker to UNLV, kicker Andy Vasquez to Arizona St. and receiver Esa Johnwell to Washington St., all within a few years.

Jordan Canada and Jerone Cox, who both transferred following Crutchfield’s firing but were ruled ineligible for their senior seasons by CIF, wound up at Montana and Eastern Michigan, respectively.

Under Crutchfield, the city’s talent-rich Duarte Hawks youth football program no longer stockpiled the rosters of other area schools. The kids stayed home, won ballgames, got scholarships and injected some pride and notoriety into a campus and community that badly needed it.

It wasn’t an easy task for Crutchfield, who met the same roadblocks that coaches of Duarte’s past and present have to deal with – there’s little support from the administration and community.

Heck, I remember the ’06 Falcons had no blocking sled and no equipment manager, and most pregame meals were bought by Crutchfield and his staff.

Duarte won despite it all. The school became relevant again for something positive. Those who have seen the light know what a good football program does for a high school campus.

But administrators don’t get paid by a football team’s wins and losses. They get paid by test scores and attendance. That makes things like a thriving football program expendable.

The point of this piece is not to defend Crutchfield. He declined to comment for this story, as did Barba, who didn’t return phone calls placed to his office.

The point is to show all of you just how fragile any football program is.

The point is to show that winning and sending kids on to college to chase their dreams never should be taken for granted.

The point is to also warn you just how dangerously close the Valley is getting to having one of its schools not be able to field a varsity team.

Duarte’s numbers have dipped dangerously low this season. Two sources said the team currently has 17 players. Barba told this newspaper last week the number was more like 21.

Bassett was in a similar situation this summer when new coach Craig Cieslik ran off several would-be players before running off himself. Drive-by accounts of Bassett’s summer practices put the team roster at 12 players.

Some players returned, though, and the team has fought hard this season under Aubrey Duncan.

Think about it for a second. Imagine whatever school you root for not being able to field a varsity football team. No homecoming game. No marching band at halftime. No cheerleaders screaming on the track. Even if the team never won a game, those things still create memories that last a lifetime.

That day appears to be coming. The only question is where.

As good as they are, none of my previous points stacks up to the most important point of them all, which is that no football program is safe in the hands of the wrong administrator. We’ll never truly know why Crutchfield was let go. Schools, citing privacy, never give reasons for personnel decisions, but Crutchfield still teaches at Duarte and is defensive coordinator at Baldwin Park.

We can only go off Barba’s reasoning at the time … you know, the whole “different direction” thing. He’s certainly gotten his wish, and the program definitely has changed course.

Hopefully, extinction isn’t the final destination.

  • Bob Anon

    Didn’t Tip Sanders have very few players when he first started the job?

    It seems that the players/families/whatever haven’t given Coach Tip a chance. What he did at Blair was amazing. Hopefully Duarte gives him the chance to try to get that team better.

  • Someone who knows

    While Mr Crutchfield was good on X’s and O’s, his record on other aspects was abysmal. He got thrown out of one game and tried to hide by the bleachers putting on someone else’s jacket, which would have caused a forfeit in a game they won.

    Also, Mr Crutchfield constantly played the race card, which caused angst with game officials and administration.

    Remember the Gladstone situation when an altercation occurred and he ended up being ejected and suspended as per CIF rules? He resigned until the parents came to the administration and backed him up and he rescinded his resignation. The article in the “Star-News” I showed to a coworker, who just happened to be the AD of that school, and that AD said the whole article was “it’s about me” and not the kids.

    Now we all don’t know the whole story but I am sure Duarte’s administration was tired of the shenanigans and the baggage.

    A couple of other things: Tip Saunders is a fine coach and fine man. He took an irrelevant program like Pasadena Marshall and sent them to the playoffs and did a miracle at another program, Blair, and turned that program around which included a share of an RHL title.

    Mr Crutchfield has the ability to be a great coach, in all aspects of being a great coach if he takes that chip off his shoulder and learn how to deal with authority such as administrators and officials. I sincerely hope that he has learned his lesson and will be given another chance in the future.

  • Aaron

    Pretty sure Tip started with but a handful of players when he took over the job at Duarte.

    He’s a good man and good coach and if the kids that are at Duarte come out and those that reside in Duarte enroll there instead of going to the likes of Monrovia, Glendora, and CO then they could win a bunch of games with Tip leading them.

    It’s a sad story but it is what it is.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/sgvfootball Aram

    Someone who knows:

    I realize Coach Crutch was/is a controversial guy. But I’ve always loved that he never held back during interviews. He was a great coach who told how it is.

    And if you do want to look at the bad, then you need to look at the good — the program was thriving. Kids were earning schollys left and right. I think the good outweighed the bad.

    Also, there have been PLENTY of coaches who hid out in various parts of the stadium during games they were not supposed to be a part of. I’ve got some epic stories there.

  • Bob

    Can someone please tell me how long Duarte principal Eric Barba has been at this school?? There is NO reason this school with ALL it’s local talent is not a powerhouse football program year in and year out. Any school, any where can get it done in the class room and on the football field IF they hire the right football coach. This school and it’s community is losing so much my not having the right person as it’s football coach. Time for Duarte Unified to make a change, may change the principal too. He gets a failing grade…

  • new cats fan:

    man truthfully the Duarte community should be kicking themselves in the head when you have a coach like Tip Sanders man your more than likely going to go deep into the playoffs or possibly win it all. i dont think their is any coach that went to two different programs that was winless and in 1 or 2 years turned them all the way around by taking one school in Marshall to a 10-3 record and to the semi-finals and taking Blair to the 2nd round with a 9-2 record..both of those teams had a combine record of 3-17 with blair winning 2 games and marshall 1 before coach tip got there..for Duarte to disrespect a coach like that deserves everything that they got coming to them. And for Crutchfield man he was a good coach but the attitude and the immatureness when things didnt go his way made the program look undisciplined and out of control and you can’t have a winning program with a bad rep.

  • The Mid

    Good column Aram. Barba has turned the football program into a joke. I like Tip. But even he can’t turn this around. Crutch got screwed.

  • The Truth

    Crutchfield may have been controversial but how many times was he called in the office for putting his hands on one of the kids.. NONE ask TIP the same question. How many times did the administration have to invetsigate the program for “Hazing” under Crutchfield.. NONE ask TIP the same question. I had two kids play for Crutch and have a nephew at Duarte right now! No comparison its a joke now. Football players wearing Monrovia sweatshirts.

  • Valley Booster

    I called last weeks piece crap, this one was very good. I get the sense that high school admins. get jealous of successful coaches and the recognition they get because of it. They want credit for the program without doing any work. They want a H.C. to kiss their rears but as a rule H.C.’s won’t do that’ so we will go another direction. It’s up to the parents as well as the community and alumni to fight for their coaches and confront the admins for an explanation as well as solutions. Winning coaches all have egos, live with it Barba or coach the team yourself.

  • Is a Blog under Journalistic Governance?

    Once again Aram you show how myopic your view of the world is. Contrary to what Fred and other star struck peers think you’re missing the boat on this issue …as only you can.

    High school is about more than wins and loses in a game. More than an occassional, or several, scholarships for the few of many.

    I actually went to the Workman vs Duarte game and introduced myself to Tip and asked to be on the sidelines to see him up close and personal, so to speak. I will say this, Tip is an exceptional individial with exceptional patience and professionalism towards his “still learning the game “players. Duarte struck Gold with him as an after Crutchfield hire.

    As I’ve said before Aram you see the world in the worst of ways, interviews, hits, noteriety and adolencence in regards to the big picture.

    Crutchfield was an overall cancer to the school. The Principal made a great decision getting rid of him and has never to answer a question from a reporter who can’t move on. In fact I’m shock by this article which is poorly researched.

    Case in point the recent All Star game. What a fiasco waiting in line for an hour as Baldwin Park players pulled one homie after another out of line and in free. And in this case, YES I know what I mean by “homie”. Every time a Baldwin Park coach would say, “Is that your cousin as well.?” Talk about outrageous! Who’s running the show over there?

    The problem with this story Aram is it paints Principal Barba in a poor light when in reality he made a tough call that several community members back 100%.

    One thing I noticed at the game was the outstanding band, the outstanding cheerleaders who never quit cheering. In fact they almost had as many cheerleaders as players. NO JOKE !!!

    One thing I saw as well was players giving 100% as Workman worked them. Every time a Workman player headed towards an apparent breakaway TD a Duarte player would pursue him and most times push them out at the 1. Heart is what the game is about and Duarte had HEART!!! #4 played out of his mind and the OL/DL gave everything they had.

    Less fans and less players without Crutchfield but he didn’t leave with Duarte Pride. That’s not transferable.

    Too bad Fred and Aram didn’t attend THAT game and see for themselves what Morrison is doing to resurrect his career and what Duarte is doing to repair a soiled past. Interesting game for sure especially after Bassett beats WOrkman.

    The real story Aram is you’ve failed all parties involved here in this story that isn’t. A great Football mind was FIRED because he crossed a Cardinal Rule, don’t make your boss look bad. He did.

    Unlike you, Aram and Fred, most bloggers have kids and understand the roles involved and the long term damage of EVERY decision.

    I congratualated Principal Barba on his decision, thanked Tip for a great game and saw first hand that Duarte Pride wasn’t for sale or MIA.

    You should get out more Aram and live up to your posistion. Shoddy Journalism for sure.

  • Goldenarm

    Goldenarm said:
    Aram,

    I read your piece on Duarte and their new direction fiasco in PSN…
    though Temple City has not lost 17 in a row since their own “new direction” nightmare, they did fail to make playoffs for the first time in 11 years – all brought about by some wild hair by the Administration, which also attempted to besmirch the name of the then head coach, Randy Backus, who was ousted as head coach.

    TC’s dinosaur run attack, sound defense and fundamentals had served then well since the 1970′s, but suddenly came a desire to “modernize” with a spread offensive attack, zone blocking and a defensive strategy I still have not figured out. With a roster that normally would spell success for the Rams (including a returning 3000yd O-line and Max Ruckle)TC simply never got untracked and their season crumbled.

    My point is your story hit it on the head for me. Any and all high school football programs are fragile and quickly things can change – and threaten something which once seemed capable of enduring forever. The Duarte example is truly a hideous one, negatively impacting more kids than can possibly be known.

    November 5, 2010 6:46 AM

  • AZTEC PRIDE

    I’ll say this, Duarte for many of years had AZUSA’S number. Did a little research and from 2003-2007, for 5 years Duarte had beat AZUSA in a row. Matter of fact I was at the Duarte and AZUSA game in 2007 in Duarte. I was sitting at the visiting side and all these people in the parking lot were yelling all kinds of cr*p, like AZUSA sucks and what not. AZUSA gave them a good game and the score at half, if I remember AZUSA was up. But at the end AZUSA loss 31-17, and I can remember alot of those seniors with tears streaming down, because they wanted to win Duarte real bad. I felt bad for those players, but that comes with losing.

    But in 2008, that’s when Coach Scherf, took over the team and what a different outcome we now have.Oh yes I was at that game too in 2008, at Citrus College. The games start at 7:00 p.m. AZUSA was on the field and it was already 6:25 p.m. and everybody was wondering were was Duarte? Well Coach Crutchfield and his Falcons came walzting in, and walking across the field when AZUSA was warming up. They had no equipment on and just were acting disrespectful walking through the players.

    Well AZUSA ended up plucking the FALCONS FEATHERS, 44-6 even with JAIME CANADA! Duarte players at the end of that game were all bug eyed and not a word was said when they got on the bus! because AZUSA had just won. They didn’t know what had hit them!

    So ARAM, I will not lose any sleep over your STORY!

    AZUSA AZTECS BACK TO BACK LEAGUE CHAMPS 2008-2009 AND YES GOING FOR A THREEPEAT!2010!

    AZTEC PRIDE!

  • My Kids Played for Coach Crutch

    My kids played for Coach Crutch and despite the fact that he had his favorites and it was known the kids respected him and the football program was at its peak. He took the school to the play offs every year he coached. People were finally coming out to watch the Duarte High School football games. The buzz was strong about the talent there. The stands were always full. Now all the talent is going to Monrovia High School. From the time Mr. Barba became Principal the school has gone down hill and the football program is NO MORE!!! The moral at the school is zero. The animosity between the Latinos and Blacks got worst. If the Duarte Unified School District is smart they will graciously ask Coach Crutch to return to the field and bring back the hype of wanting to play for the Falcons and they should find another Principal to run the school because from Mr. Baraba’s first day its been nothing but DISSAPOINTING!! I’m glad my kids graduated before Coach Crutch stopped coaching because at least they had the opportunity to go to the play offs every year and they were proud to play for Coach Crutch and the Falcons.

  • poor ethics

    Duarte did so many things liek Aztec Pride mentions and it’s all excused. That’s the new way, blame the administration.

    Teaching kids that sports is every thing. Too bad for those that still belive a school is judged by it’s Football program, or lack thereof, and not it’s service to the community.

    The Tribune is filled with hacks.

    Frabk G. recently said that Octomom had no merit to live., or words to that affect. Imagine a newspaper printing that a woman, other of 14, had no worth to be alive. WOW

    Speakless is what taht was.

    What a farce. A MAN WITHOUT SO MUCH AS A DEGREE LAYTING INTO A HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL FOR HAVING PRINCIPLES.

    Aram get a clue

  • never overlook the importance of Athletics on a campus and in a community!

    People just don’t get it. When athletics are good at schools, it tends to rub off on the student body. Monrovia and Duarte have been struggling through some tough times with bad relations between its Black and latino students. Well guess what Blacks and latinos play together on the field. Ahtletes ar normally the biggest most popular students on campus. They have the ability to pursuade people to get along. When all of the students see people in the lime light getting along, they tend to follow suit. if the team is good you tend to have more guys stay away from the gang activity, and tryout for the team. If the team is horrible, it seems more fun to go get in trouble, or not go to class. The Administration made the wrong move. All of the outstanding young men who can make a difference will just enroll at Monrovia, if thy want to play ball. Crutch had a good thing going with the young men. Also when the team is winning, it brings the community together. People will have brothers, cousins, and sons on the team. They are forced to get along. Now, its just a dead school with no athletics. They did it to themselves. Now they got Tip, but they will find a reason to let him go after a while. It is just a shame… Shame on you Duarte Unified School District!

  • never overlook the importance of Athletics on a campus and in a community!

    People just don’t get it. When athletics are good at schools, it tends to rub off on the student body. Monrovia and Duarte have been struggling through some tough times with bad relations between its Black and latino students. Well guess what Blacks and latinos play together on the field. Ahtletes ar normally the biggest most popular students on campus. They have the ability to pursuade people to get along. When all of the students see people in the lime light getting along, they tend to follow suit. if the team is good you tend to have more guys stay away from the gang activity, and tryout for the team. If the team is horrible, it seems more fun to go get in trouble, or not go to class. The Administration made the wrong move. All of the outstanding young men who can make a difference will just enroll at Monrovia, if thy want to play ball. Crutch had a good thing going with the young men. Also when the team is winning, it brings the community together. People will have brothers, cousins, and sons on the team. They are forced to get along. Now, its just a dead school with no athletics. They did it to themselves. Now they got Tip, but they will find a reason to let him go after a while. It is just a shame… Shame on you Duarte Unified School District!

  • Joe Amat

    Here’s some scoop for you Aram. I was talking with some friends that knew people in high places. Another major sport boys coach is no longer w/the program.

    Not sure if he “wanted to spend time with the family” or the school “wanted to go in another direction” – but they’ll be lookin’ for another one.

    AT – you’re up

  • Frank

    Duarte’s program is a sad situation, and i’m not sure its going to return anytime soon. The problem that Duarte has now, is that the program is so bad anybody with talent will do their best to attend another school.With the talent in Duarte there should be no reason that they should not be the top team in football each year in that division. It will take a lot of sacrifice to return the program, first you have to get kids to believe in the program, and try to get some kids who are going to sacrifice and attend school there, when even if they are talented will not get recongnized. That is a huge sacrifice for people to make.

  • crock of crap

    With fall sports coming to a close and great athletes performing all over the valley, Aman all you could come up with is another negative article about poor Duarte? Leave it alone already they are trying to figure it out! These are high school kids, give them credit for being out there on the field and showing pride in trying to turn what Crutchfield left in shambles. Find a positive piece on a player or team. Stop digging in the dirt. You are a boring journalist. Shame on you, I’ve lost any respect that I ever had for you and this newspaper. Not to mention the athletics at Duarte in other areas aren’t doing so bad. There is more to life than just football.

  • Anonymous

    “With the talent in Duarte there should be no reason that they should not be the top team in football each year in that division.”

    Lets not get carried away now.

  • Frank

    Don’t think anyone is getting carried away if Duarte’s talent stayed at home that weak leauge They are in would be no competition. Even aztec pride admits that. He said Duarte kicked azusas tail from 2003- 2007. Its really a no brainer.

  • community comment

    You are exactly right. The football program of a school does bring the community together. Also as to the point of the article Aram you did a good job. These principals now days are treating high school football like a pro team.Hiring and firing people with no sense of “why” (Temple City). They are the ones missing the point. The kids are the point. Duarte was doing well both on and off the field now they are NOT period. Tip started with over 40 players now they are down to 17 WOW! Again the kids are the losers.

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