Role players make difference for Cougars
STEPPING UP: Crenshaw senior tailback Geoffrey Norwood was expected to be a backup this year but he leads the team in rushing and scoring - one of several players contributing to the team's undefeated record. (Jason Lewis for Sentinel)Â
Geoffrey Norwood and Ronald Stovall - two names you probably don't recognize.
The two Crenshaw players don't stand out on any recruiting service list. They were afterthoughts before the season when talking about players to watch.
And both are key reasons why the Cougars are undefeated (13-0), one win away from a City championship.
Norwood, a senior tailback, leads the team in rushing yards (889) and total touchdowns (18) while Stovall, a senior linebacker, leads the team in tackles (136).
Norwood's success is all the more surprising because he was expected to play backup to junior DeAnthony Thomas, an All-City selection last year. After Thomas suffered an ankle sprain against Lakewood in September, it was time for the senior to step up.
"Everyone knew about Hayes [Pullard] and D [Thomas], so it was time to show them what I could do," Norwood said.
He entered the season 12 pounds lighter than last year when he was primarily used as a fullback. The lighter load paid off.
The 5-10, 175 lb. back scored twice against Norco the following week and his best game in the team's first game against Dorsey (151 yards, two touchdowns).
"When I touch that ball, all I do is just run," he said.
He's also made an impact at defensive back with seven interceptions - all the more surprising considering he had never played defense before this summer.
Before every game, he prays to his uncle that passed away last year for motivation. He's close to his family, having always deferred to his older brother Gregory, who graduated Crenshaw last year.
But as his father pointed out, this is his time to be one of the guys.
"He's learned week to week how to be in the spotlight," his father Greg Norwood Sr. said. "But he's always been a team player."
The same could be said for Stovall, who transferred back to Crenshaw after a year at Compton Centennial. He's an emotional leader who walks up and down the sidelines telling teammates to clap it up after every play.
"Once the game starts, I'm active and I like to move around. If I'm not on the field, I motivate the guys on the field to do their job."
Prowling the sidelines and wound like a time bomb, his voice is always heard over the coaches, the cheers - making sure his mates don't forget to pump up their family.
He and Pullard have been a 1-2 punch as fast, hard-hitting linebackers that show no mercy for opponents or teammates. After every play, you can find both of them in somebody's ear getting them ready for the next one.
"Every team I ever played for, I've always been the team hypeman," he said, taking pride in his role.
It carried back over to Centennial where he cheered on his old team from the sidelines in their playoff game this year. Even in street clothes, it was the same intensity, same level of support.
After beating Dorsey, Stovall - like most of his teammates - said that he had never been to the Coliseum. But on Saturday, he promised there'd be no nerves on his side of the field.
Norwood and Stovall may not have the spotlight on them solely during the game, but as long as they help the team shine, they'll be the happiest on the field.