What Happened? Crisfield High basketball woes

By Richard Kellam
Posted 3/17/23

Crisfield High School has a proud basketball tradition, 8 State championships, more than any other Bayside Conference program, 10 Bayside Conference titles, 11 South Division crowns. The Crabbers led …

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What Happened? Crisfield High basketball woes


Crisfield High School has a proud basketball tradition, 8 State championships, more than any other Bayside Conference program, 10 Bayside Conference titles, 11 South Division crowns. The Crabbers led the Bayside in conference championships until Wi-Hi moved into the lead in the last decade, the Tribe now with a total of 15.

Crisfield has reached the State final four at College Park on 19 occasions. In the era of open classification, the Crabbers made it to the State championship game in 1933 and 1935. The State in pre MPSSAA days had a Western Shore champion along with an Eastern Shore champ.

State tournaments were cancelled during World War II (1940-46), resumed in 1947 with the formation of the MPSSAA, the State divided into 4 classes, A, B, C, D, but in 1950 revised to a 3 class system. Crisfield claimed their first State title in 1957 under this format. Maryland went back to a 4 class alignment in 1961, the Crabbers winning a Class C championship that season.

In 1989 the State decided to rename the 4 classes, dropping the use of B or C, as if a school would feel inferior being deemed as such.

Crisfield ranks fifth overall in College Park appearances, tied for fifth in State championships. Dunbar of Baltimore City has the most State titles (16) replacing Allegany (14) which held the record for decades. CHS dominated Class C hoops on the Eastern Shore from the late '50s into the mid-1960s. The Crabbers won 7 consecutive College Park berths from 1956-1962.

Following their 1964 State title, the Crabbers didn’t make it back to Cole Field House again until the 1970 season. Crisfield’s fortunes picked up as the Bayside era began in 1972, CHS brought home 4 State crowns from 1973-1982 and 5 Bayside titles.

Crisfield failed to win another District (Regional) title until 1997 and then their eighth State championship in 2000, Since than the pickings have been slim.

The Crabbers reclaimed Regional honors in 2014 under Coach Dale Turpin. The period in between was not entirely fruitless, the Crabbers reached the east region final in both 2003 and 2004. CHS posted a 20-5 record in 2007, advanced to the East Region title contes but let a 6 point fourth quarter lead slip away culminating in a 74-68 loss to Snow Hill.

Crisfield fortunes elevated in 2017 when the Crabbers compiled a 13-10 record following a pair of losing campaigns. In 2018 CHS advanced to the Sectional final, now comparable to Region status, but lost to Snow Hill again 59-53. If the Crabbers had won they would have been with out starters Justin Cohen and Cortrey Fontaine, both playing through injuries, but they would have been declared unfit to play in the next contest, the Regional final.

Crisfield led by Cohen, Fontaine, the Waters brothers Ryan (Champ), Rykel and Christian along with the Smith brothers Javin and JaRon went on to capture back ro back Regional crowns in 2019 and 2020. CHS finished 24-3 in 2019 tied with Wi-Hi for the South lead but lost their opportunity for another Bayside crown, losing to Wi-Hi by a coin toss.

It was the Crabbers winning by lop sided margins in those days, 116-13 over St. Michaels, 100-56 against Washington, 69-49 over Cambridge-SD in the Sectional playoffs, The Crabbers rolled past unbeaten Havre de Grace in the East final earning a trip to College Park.

CHS won the East Region II title the next year but lost to Edmondson in the State Quarterfinals

Herein lies the problem, CHS and other small schools are the victims of the numbers game. Edmondson from Baltimore City has an enrollment of 642 as compared to Crisfield’s 254. The upper two thirds of Class 1A have more than 400 students to pick from. Pocomoke, Snow Hill, St. Michaels along with CHS are the State’s smallest, nor counting the specialty institutions. Boonsboro with 673 is at the top of the heap, Cambridge-SD 653 is the third largest.

“It’s gotten so that winning a Regional is about the same as a State championship for us,” said CHS soccer Coach Harold Frock, who has guided the Crabbers to 2 Regional crowns, along with a Sectional title. Frock’s 2015 team made it to the 1A State championship game. Crisfield’s opponent in that contest, North Carroll had close to 600 students. Patterson Mill, whom CHS faced in the 2018 Sectional, 628. Mount Ridge in the 2019 State semi 612.

 “Our attendance has dropped, numbers down, it would benefit us if the State would make another class," said CHS Athletic Director and softball coach Greg Bozman. Delaware solved the problem in the early 1970s by consolidating all of their smaller schools.

Crisfield lost to Edmondson in  the 2020 quarterfinals, the next day scholastic sports were cancelled until January 2021. Fall and Spring sports played a limited schedule with no tournaments, Winter sports including basketball were left out. Basketball returned to CHS in 2021-22, the Crabbers suffered through their worst season and it got no better in 2022-23.

Local population is down school enrollment is down, interest is down. What does the future hold?

State, Regional, Bayside Titles

Bill Cain, who coached boys’ basketball from 1969-1982 compiled 213 wins during his 14 year journey at CHS. Cain led the Crabbers to 4 State championships along with 5 Bayside crowns and 7 Regional titles. The West Virginia native guided CHS to 5 Regionals, 4 Bayside and 3 State championships from 1977-1982, the most outstanding coaching endeavor in Bayside history.

Jack Morgan, 1959-1968, led the Crabbers to 5 District (Regional) titles and 2 State championships, the Bayside Conference was not founded until the 1972 season. Nick Scallion 2 Districts and Crisfield’s first State championship in 1957. Phill Rayfield, 1991-2010, won 3 Bayside crowns, 2 Regionals and a State title in 2000.

Elmo "Buz" Powell, Dale Turpin, David Arnold and Arnold teamed with Andre Collins, one Regional apiece. Larry Miles 2 Bayside titles. George "Gimp" Carrington coached CHS when the Crabbers made it to the State title games in 1933 and 1935. Carrington also claimed 3 eastern Shore crowns in soccer advancing to the State final in the 30’s. Sonny Riggin led CHS to their only State soccer title in 1978 and Bayside crown in 1979, along with 3 Regional victories. Harold Frock 2 Regional championships and a Sectional title. Ron Purnell and Jim Tawes Regional crowns.

Emily Larmore coached the Lady Crabbers field hockey program to South Division, Bayside and Regional championship, first ever for a CHS girls’ team. Jen McDorman and Hannah Sterling a Regional championship apiece.

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