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Montville - Jeremiah Crowley kept thinking of his late father Friday night, every time his knee buckled, every time the pain was there numbing, every time his team needed one more play.
And somewhere, Thomas Crowley, who died when his son was a freshman at Montville High School, must have been beaming. Nah. More than that. Maybe even hollering "that's my boy!" for all to hear.
That's because Jeremiah Crowley stands alone today in the pantheon of high school running backs, the brand new owner of an esteemed state record.
Crowley rushed for a state record 526 yards on 37 carries, leading the Indians to a 49-37 win over Stonington within the Medium Division of the Eastern Connecticut Conference. Crowley eclipsed previous record holder Alex Thomas of Ansonia, who gained 518 yards on 44 carries Sept. 27, 2007.
Crowley, who also scored seven touchdowns, broke Jamal Johnson's ECC record of 427 yards early in the fourth period on a 4-yard touchdown run that gave Montville the lead for good. Johnson set the record for New London on Oct. 23, 1988.
"I was a little kid when Jamal Johnson went bonkers. I remember hearing about it all my life," Montville coach Tanner Grove said. "To know we have a kid go for 500, it's like video games."
Grove and Crowley exchanged a lengthy embrace moments after the record had been set on a 19-yard run late in the game.
Crowley, who played nearly every snap on defense, too, came off the field only when he needed ice on his already aching knee that worsened after a direct hit with a helmet earlier in the game.
"Nothing was going to take me out except the ambulance," Crowley said. "I really don't want all the publicity for this. I want my team to know I couldn't have done any of it without them.
"It's still a huge shock to me. I had no idea I had any of this in me. Every time I step on the field I think of my dad. I know he never wants me to give up on my team."
Crowley's record night came two weeks after he missed the season opener, suspended for violating team rules during a preseason scrimmage.
"I let my team down, myself down, the coaches down and I embarrassed the school," Crowley said. "I had to make up for it."
Grove: "The kid is good at a lot of things, but the things he's always struggled with, people have let him know about at every level of his life. After his time served, he came to me and said he was going to do everything in his power to play the right way. ... Tonight I really got to see him grow up, which is probably more impressive to me than all the yards."
It wasn't lost on Grove that the Indians (1-2, 1-1) needed every single one of Crowley's yards and scores. Montville, which committed four turnovers and was penalized for nearly 150 yards, squandered a 21-6 lead and had to rally from deficits of 24-21, 30-28 and 37-36.
Crowley scored on runs of 4 and 78 yards in the final eight minutes.
Montville's defense, led by lineman Nick Haralambidis, stuffed Stonington (0-2, 0-1) on its final two possessions.
Stonington's Zach Poirier ran for 124 yards and returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown.
"Honestly, they ran the same play over and over again and we didn't tackle," Stonington coach A.J. Massengale said. "We, as coaches, have to scheme better to put our players in better positions to make plays."
Player (School) Yards Year
1. Jeremiah Crowley (Montville) 526 2013
2. Alex Thomas (Ansonia) 518 2007
3. Brandon Williard (Farmington) 508 2002
4. Bubby Natowich (Ansonia) 451 1936
5. Tim Washington (Bristol Central) 449 2000
6. Jamal Johnson (New London) 427 1988
Source: Connecticut High School Football Record Book