WATERVILLE — Old Town senior T.J. Crawford admitted to having questions about how good the Coyotes could be this season, less than three months after graduation stripped plenty of talent off the roster of an Old Town team that went unbeaten in the regular season and played in the regional title game last fall.

On Saturday, those questions were answered.

Crawford ran for 247 yards and four touchdowns, powering a multi-faceted Old Town offense that helped beat Waterville 50-17 in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams at Drummond Field.

“We lost a lot of talent last year, but the guys have stepped up tremendously. People will be surprised,” Crawford said. “After the end of the season, yes, I had questions. But on the first day of two-a-days, I said, ‘We have the talent.’ The guys put the work in over the summer, and I knew we were going to have a solid team.”

Old Town (1-0) stormed out of the blocks in the second half, using Crawford’s 43-yard kick return to begin the third quarter and set the stage for junior Hunter Brasslett’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Nick Avery just three plays later.

When Waterville’s Nick Wildhaber fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 22-yard line, the Coyotes took over and pounded the ball in from 11 yards out on Crawford’s fourth rushing touchdown of the afternoon.

A 16-point halftime lead for Old Town ballooned to a 38-10 advantage just 1:44 in the second half.

“I had a few good cuts, but the line established the alleys they needed to,” Crawford said. “I took the alleys, and the line did a great job today. I’m proud of them.”

Waterville (0-1) got off to a quick start, opening the game with a nine-play, 54-yard drive capped by Chase Wheeler’s 22-yard field goal. The drive was highlighted by sophomore quarterback Jack Thompson’s 39-yard pass to classmate Richard Reyes down the left sideline.

Brasslett (6-of-11 passing, 128 yards) found Travis Spell for a big gain on Old Town’s first play from scrimmage, and from there Crawford went to work. Brasslett handed the ball off to him five consecutive times to set up a first-and-goal from the Waterville 1-yard line, and Crawford ran it in to make it a 6-3 game.

It only set the tone for what was to come from Crawford.

Before halftime, he scored on runs of 42 and 26 yards as Old Town built a 20-10 lead early in the second quarter. Brasslett, who had success throwing fade routes in the corner of the end zone, did just that on a 13-yard strike to Ryan Hoogterp that made it 26-10 with 7:44 left in the first half.

“T.J.’s great, and we’ve got a lot of young talent stepping up,” Old Town head coach Lance Cowan said. “(Brasslett) has been a backup for two years, and he’s ready to step up and go. He threw the ball well, and we ran the ball with T.J. But I think it’s going to help that we have more weapons to help him out, too.”

It wasn’t an entirely lost cause for the Purple Panthers on Saturday. Despite the lopsided final score, there were some good things. Though penalties and turnovers hurt promising drives, the Waterville offense looked good with a lot of young pieces in featured spots.

Thompson was 14-of-27 passing for 251 yards with two touchdowns, including one to Reyes for 37 yards with 7:57 to play in the third quarter.

“We’ve got a sea of sophomores with a few freshmen sprinkled in,” Waterville head coach Matt Gilley said. “There were some positives to take. Offensively, we took a step from (the preseason), and moved the ball pretty effectively. We’ve got a sophomore quarterback who showed he can sling the ball around and we’ve got some people who can catch it.

“It’s trial by fire for a lot of the guys out there, but we’ll be just fine. I was proud of our effort.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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