First, St. Paul principal Lori Barr fires coach Pete Gonzalez, then doesn’t explain why she fires a coach who won a championship the previous year. Now you have this first-year principal, Eric Barba at Duarte, firing coach Wardell Crutchfield, then hiding behind his “we want to move in a different direction,” statement. Just once I wish these principals would tell us what direction it is they wish to head in. With respect to Crutchfield, why did Barba wait so long? Now the Falcons are in the 11th hour looking for a coach with spring practice around the corner. Barba’s timing couldn’t of been any worse. Not even sure if there’s a teaching position available since Crutchfield will remain at the school as a teacher. Is this really the best move in these economic times? Duarte was 9-22 combined in the three years before Crutchfield arrived. During Crutch’s tenure, four of his players earned D-1 scholarships. He took the Falcons to the quarters in three of the four years he was there, and though he spoke his mind, which sometimes got him in trouble, his players loved him because he always had their best interest in mind. They were 6-6 this past season, but so what, he took a team from a bad league and challenged South Hills, Ayala, rival Monrovia. In fact, all four non-league teams the Falcons faced had winning records. This was a bad move all the way around, and another principal making a change without thinking it all through. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons lose loyal Crutchfield players to neighboring schools, and believe me, there are many of them.
Without offering any details or commenting on his coaching performance, first-year Duarte High School principal Eric Barba fired Falcons football coach Wardell Crutchfield, one of the most successful coaches in the school’s history. Crutchfield, who graduated from San Diego State, played in the Arena Football League and also is a math teacher at the school, told this newspaper in December he was looking forward to next season with the return of standout running back Jordan Canada and his son Wardell Crutchfield III, who will be a junior.
The Falcons were 6-6 this past season, finished second in the Montview League and advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division quarterfinals before losing 41-21 to Monrovia.
“Coaching assignments are on a year-by-year basis,” Barba explained on Monday. “Next year we’re looking to make a change. We’re appreciative of the time Mr. Crutchfield has given to Duarte and our football program, but we want to move in a different direction.”
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Crutchfield had a 33-23 record in his four years at the school, which included a league title and semifinal appearance in the Mid-Valley Division playoffs in 2006.
The Falcons were 8-3 in 2007 and finished second in league but advanced to the Mid-Valley Division quarterfinals.
The Falcons, in fact, reached at least the quarterfinals in three of his four years as coach.
Crutchfield said he was surprised when told last Friday he would not be back.
“He gave me the same reasons he gave you (newspaper), that he wants to go in a different direction,” Crutchfield said. “I talked to him about our accomplishments and how we changed the culture, started winning and got kids into college, but apparently that wasn’t enough.”
During Crutchfield’s tenure Corey Fluker (UNLV), Mike Harris (UCLA), Chris Harris (Utah State) and Jermaine Thomas (Fresno State) all earned Division I scholarships.
“I think the school only had one player ever earn a scholarship in football before I came,” Crutchfield said. “I’m going to remain at the school as a (math) teacher and continue to help these kids get into college.
“I really think Duarte has a great chance to win the Mid-Valley Division next year. I can sit here and say a lot of things, but I’m going to take the high road.
“I don’t want to have this turn into something negative for the kids. I’d like to thank Duarte for giving me my first head coaching job. I think I got everything out of it that I could. I’m disappointed I won’t be back, but I’m still going to support the school and help the players in any way that I can.”
Crutchfield’s tenure wasn’t without its controversy, however.
In addition to being one of the more outspoken area coaches, he quit following the aftermath of a fight that broke out between players following a blowout win over Gladstone in September 2007.
Crutchfield was upset that players from his team were suspended following the incident. He quit citing a lack of support from school officials.
But Crutchfield returned less than a week later after an overwhelming show of support from players, parents and his principal at the time, Dr. William Martinez, who agreed to let him have his job back.
Crutchfield said he will stay at Duarte, but he realized there are local coaching opportunities available at La Puente, Temple City and Pasadena high schools.
“I’ll listen, you always have to listen,” Crutchfield said of possibly coaching elsewhere. “But right now I’m not even thinking about that.”
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