Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
All-around good guy and great coach Casey Crandall flew in to the valley in 2002, like the weather from his native Southwest Oklahoma. Crandall is and was a beloved teacher and coach, using the athletic field and classroom to teach life lessons.
“Louis Mestas was the principal,” Crandall said. “He was the only reason I was at Hagerman. When I interviewed with him, he was a former Marine, and he was a tough, disciplined guy. Louis believed in Hagerman and he sold me — after interviewing with him, I felt like if he was that committed to this place, I was in.”
Hagerman football with Randy Montoya won the state title in 2009 with a 13-12 win over Clayton, and lost in 2010, to Fort Sumner, 17-12. After the season, Montoya resigned.
Montoya decided to take his talents to New Mexico Military Institute and try to win a championship there. With the move, Hagerman had an immediate opening, and everyone involved in the football program wanted the job to go to the affable Casey Crandall.
Crandall becomes head football coach
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Crandall accepted the job and his resolve was put to the test in his first year. Crandall wanted to run the spread and no-huddle offense, doing something different than the system coach Montoya had run during his time at Hagerman.
“I wanted to do the no-huddle basketball on grass,” Crandall said. “We had some really good basketball and athletes. I told our team we are not going to line you up and smash your heads in. We are going to be in better shape than other teams. We are going to try to be faster and better athletically than the other team.”
The other problem was that Hagerman was dominated with juniors and seniors during those championships. When Crandall took over in his first season, he started some eighth-graders, freshmen and sophomores.
“What made us successful,” Crandall said, “I was able to get the defensive guy, Andrew Rodriguez, that I wanted, and the weight-lifting Mario Morales and conditioning guy, Alex Morales that I wanted.”
Hagerman was ahead of the curve in putting points on the board, but they were out of condition because they would score so fast that other teams would run their offense and keep Hagerman’s defense on the field so long that in the third and fourth quarter, they were worn down. Crandall stole his offense from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the Oregon football team, and simplified it for Hagerman.
The results were not pretty, but after each game, Crandall knew he was on to something and kept encouraging his team during a 2-8 season. Crandall understood the expectations of the community to win. He knew that Hagerman has a history of excellence but felt things would work out given that his team was young, and they were going to a new system.
“I was loving that first season,” Crandall said. “We had nobody, we had a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. We had a couple of key seniors that first year bridge us from the old system to the new system. Those seniors were instrumental in helping us that first year.
“Those guys were huge because we leaned on them a lot. The fun part was that everybody got along and wanted to be good. They just had to have the faith that the new system was going to fit their athletic ability.”
Crandall knew that a season in the weight room, another season in his system and another year of maturity would be all that his team would need and then they would be on the winning end of things. He could see the kids getting better during their lifting workouts under Mario Morales and Alex Morales in the evening.
“Mario was so good in that weight room,” Crandall said. “I could see the kids getting better and I knew it would take a while.”
During the first season, Crandall felt like he had two big-time receivers in Jose Bejarano and Jessie Rodriguez, with the quarterback being Alejandro Ramos.
Hagerman won big in his second year — they lost only two games. One was to Dexter in the Battle of the Bridges, 35-7, in the third game of the season.
Hagerman would go undefeated until they played in the championship game against Capitan. This game looked to be a rout on paper, because Hagerman had beaten them in the first game of the season, 48-6.
Crandall felt like the 2012 season would be the start of his team winning three in a row.
The week before the championship game, their best player, Juan Ramos went down during practice with a seizure. They rushed him to the emergency room where they found a brain tumor and had to send him to another hospital for emergency brain surgery.
Alejandro Ramos is the quarterback and brother of Juan. Alejandro played but did not play well, or throw the ball as well as he normally did, and Hagerman ended up losing, 24-6, to Capitan.
“After the game,” Crandall said, “I told our team how proud I was of them. This was our third year into it, and they could see how it was going to work.”
With a renewed commitment to winning, Hagerman set their sights on winning it all in 2013. With a class of sophomores, juniors and a few seniors, Hagerman vowed to let nothing stand in their way.
For Crandall, it was nothing more than teaching his kids to go through the process to get the results they wanted. It was about hard work and all being accountable to one another.
“I wanted to teach my kids,” Crandall said, “to trust the process. That is was OK to work hard and fail. It’s only a fail if they didn’t learn from it.”
The first game in 2013 was a statement game because Hagerman would open on the road against the defending state champions: Capitan. The Bobcats made quick work of them by shutting them out for a 34-0 win.
The only other close game would be against Dexter and it was not as close as the score would indicate. Hagerman won, 20-14.
They would beat their old coach, Randy Montoya, when they played NMMI, 47-28. They also would play Carlsbad junior varsity and beat them, 42-0, and Roswell’s junior varsity, 47-6, in what was fast becoming a season to remember.
Hagerman would be perfect on the season, going 12-0 and averaging 36 points a game, and only allowing five points. In the playoffs, Hagerman was on a mission as they crushed Jal, 60-6. In the championship game, it was once again Capitan, who did not have a chance as they lost at home in the snow with 10 degrees, 35-6.
“After we lost to Capitan in the 2012 championship game,” Crandall said, “Capitan was the highlight for us, just because we knew we should have won. They beat me my very first game and we were up. Every time after that, we are going to beat you and do it by as much as you can.
“After every game, we lined our players up right there in our locker room, and had them look each other in the eye, and tell them: ‘I played everything I got for you and I got nothing to be ashamed of.’ And we did that whether we won or lost.
“What I tried to instill in our players,” Crandall said, “is that you are going to get out of this at some point: I want you to work hard, be a good person and be good teammates.”
Crandall thinks Hagerman’s championship season was perfect because it all came together for his team. His team was big, fast and strong. They were healthy for the whole season. They put in a lot of work in the summer, and his kids understood the system and they were close friends.
“Hagerman is a good place,” Crandall said. “It’s a good place to work, good place to teach, good place to do sports and a good place to live. I thought about staying there for the rest of my career.”
Crandall tells of the hardest conversation he ever had to have with Mario Morales, the weight coach at Hagerman. He told Morales that he was leaving to coach his daughter, Kali, who was a sophomore at Dexter at the time. Kali asked if he would come to coach her and her friends at Dexter for basketball.
Crandall had asked his family to give him a few years to see if his football ideas would work. Crandall says his family did it with no questions asked.
Crandall resigned and coached his daughter for one year in basketball.
“If Hagerman had softball,” Crandall said, “I’d probably still be at Hagerman today. If my daughter was a strong enough person to ask me to do it for her, I was going to do it for her.”
Kali went on to become the New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year and is a sophomore at Oklahoma Christian University. His other daughter RyLee is a sophomore at Artesia and the only player in New Mexico to be ranked nationally at No. 46. She was a freshman All-American and picked by Max Preps to be the best player in the state this year.
Crandall currently teaches in Artesia as a junior high school science teacher. He coaches girls’ junior high basketball and is the assistant softball coach at the high school.
“I still keep in contact with those Hagerman kids,” Crandall said. “I still keep in contact with the Hagerman people. I love those people, there is always a chance to go back when the kids are gone — if I want to try it again. There are times I feel like if I could get enough of the old guys back together, I’d do it. The only high schools I’d like to coach at are NMMI with coach Montoya, or I’d try it out here in Artesia or I’d go back to Hagerman.”
Crandall still has love in his heart for Hagerman and where it all began for him. He always realizes that being on the front end of the back-to-back team winning the Blue Trophy in football and basketball in the same academic calendar year is a rare feat and special.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.