Beating the odds: 1958 Crisfield Crabbers a tough act to follow

By Richard Kellam
Posted 12/31/21

Crisfield High School won its first ever State basketball title in 1957, the Crabbers dominated the opposition enroute to a sparkling 18-0 record to bring home the Class C boys basketball …

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Beating the odds: 1958 Crisfield Crabbers a tough act to follow

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Crisfield High School won its first ever State basketball title in 1957, the Crabbers dominated the opposition enroute to a sparkling 18-0 record to bring home the Class C boys basketball championship.

There were only 3 classes in the MPSSAA format until the State realigned the classification system in 1961, expanding to a four-class alignment. The Crabbers outscored their opponents by an average of 37 points a game — their closest regular season encounter was a 46-33 win over Northampton. The Crabbers hammered the Virginia school 75-35 in the rematch.

Laurel High, Crisfield’s opponent in the State title contest, gave the Crabbers their closest battle, falling 48-37.

Crisfield defeated John M. Clayton, Delaware’s top small school and a member of the now disbanded Diamond State Conference. They were coached by a friend of CHS Coach Nick Scallion. This game was for bragging rights and the Crabbers won the bi-state duel 77-56 in their regular season finale.

The Crabbers just missed State championship glory in 1956. CHS lost in overtime 53-48 to Centreville of Queen Annes County in the final. Crisfield’s victory in 1957 touched off a citywide celebration as the jubilant fans welcomed their heroes back home.

They were heroes indeed and the community embraced them, the ’57 Crabbers brought glory and honor to Maryland’s southernmost town. Crisfield lost six seniors from that groundbreaking ensemble including all five starters. The 1958 season would be a rebuilding year. Scallion left CHS to accept a coaching position at South Hagerstown High where he would lead the Rebels to a Class A (now 3A) crown in 1974.

This course of events left the 1958 Crabbers with a tough act to follow. Coach Elmo “Buz” Powell who took over for Scallion would have to start from scratch. Powell would have to somehow find replacements for co-captains Donny Landon and Charles “Tot” Woolston, the Crabbers’ mainstays. Tay Handy, Jerry “Jud” Ward, Porter Tawes and Phil “Yarney” Crockett had also departed. Powell did have Jerry Evans back; the 6-4 junior saw considerable playing time in 1957.

Seniors Phil Mauer, Larry Lawson and Johnny Forbush along with junior Stu Emely rounded out Powell’s starting five. Emely would lead the well balanced CHS offense averaging 12.8 ppg, Forbush 10.6, Evans 10.8.

Crisfield didn’t match their 70 ppg mark of the previous season, they averaged just 55 per contest but they held their opponents to only 33 an outing. The Crabbers breezed through the regular season finishing 15-0, their narrowest victory a 36-34 win over Northampton at home. CHS won the second meeting in convincing fashion 62-50 on the Yellowjackets home court. Crisfield extended their regular season streak to 32 in 58, the string would build to 46 in a row until 1960 when the Crabbers fell to Wi-Hi in the second game of the season. CHS avenged this loss just one week later.

Crisfield defeated Pocomoke 45-32 in the District tournament and earned their third consecutive trip to College Park with a narrow 37-34 triumph over then chief rival Mardela. The Warriors were not reluctant to employ slow down tactics as evidenced in Crisfield’s 33-19 victory earlier in the season (there were no shot clocks in those days).

Eventual State champion Lackey defeated CHS 69-50 in the Class C semifinals, the school from Charles County would repeat in 1959, defeating CHS in the semis once again. Although they were unable to defend their State Crown it was a great year for the Crabbers, they stumped the critics and beat the odds.