The American Fork football team has become a place to find great receivers in recent years.
The 2019 season is no exception as the Cavemen have a pair of pass-catchers who have passed the 1,000-yard mark in senior Devin Downing (96 receptions, 1,687 yards, 22 TDs) and senior Tanner Holden (79 receptions, 1,210 yards, 15 TDs).
But some of the best hands on the team might belong to a senior who spends most of his time on defense: Taylor Crump.
Crump has caught the ball a modest 43 times this fall — but he’s done it in four different ways:
- 18 pass receptions for 308 yards and five TDs.
- 7 interceptions with 49 return yards.
- 12 kickoff returns for 247 yards.
- 6 punt returns for 63 yards.
As you can imagine, American Fork head coach Aaron Behm can’t say enough about Crump’s versatility.
“He is a great leader, someone who the kids love,” Behm said. “He’s a competitor. Wherever he is at on the field, he wants to be the best which is the attitude you want your players to have. When we match up our first-team offense and defense in practice, one day he might be on defense and he’s getting after the offense. The very next day he might be on offense and he’s giving it to the defense. It doesn’t matter where he is at; he just loves to compete.”
The Caveman senior said he just loves being a football player.
“I started the season at safety and switched to cornerback during the playoffs,” Crump said. “It was better for the team. Then there is a package where Devin (Downing), Tanner (Holden) and I are all receivers. We had injuries on kickoff and kick return and I asked coach to help out because I want to be on the field as much as possible and helping out all my guys. I love playing wherever I can on the field.”
Behm noted that Crump had to work his way up to where he is at now but is now making the most of his opportunities.
“Taylor played mostly junior varsity last year but just by competing he has put himself in a position where we barely take him off the field in Week 15,” Behm said. “He’s one of those kids that if you say, ‘hey, let’s give you a break,’ he says, ‘I don’t want a break. I want to be on the field.’ It’s a great testament to hard work and to having the right attitude every time you come out to play.”
It makes a big difference for a team to have a player with that combination of ability and attitude. Behm recalled how Crump stepped up bigtime in the Pleasant Grove game this year.
“A great story from this past season was when we were warming up for the Pleasant Grove game,” Behm said. “Devin (Downing) thought he was going to be able to play but we finished warmups and he didn’t feel right. He took his shoulder pads off and we played the game without him. But on the very first drive, Taylor caught about a 35-yard touchdown and helped everyone realize that we were going to be OK. Having him being ready and able to jump in at all times was huge.”
One of the things that Crump said has motivated him and the other American Fork seniors is the memory of losing to Lone Peak in the 2018 6A championship.
“It was hard to lose to a good Lone Peak team last year but I feel like this year we’ve been preparing all year for this,” Crump said. “It’s nice to be back and ready to fulfill this goal that we’ve dreamed about. It was huge motivation for all of the seniors. We knew a lot of people would have to step up and that loss was in the back of our heads. We knew we had to work harder to get back.”
After a season that had ups and downs, the Cavemen went out and earned another shot as they will play against Corner Canyon in the 6A championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City at 2:30 p.m. today.
“As we’ve marched into the championship game, we’ve preached the same things we have been preaching all year,” Behm said. “That’s that we have to get better every week. Now we are playing the best team in the state and we’ve got to get better. Our leaders made sure that we were going to get better this week. We have to come out and execute on offense, hopefully putting points on the board and keeping the ball away from their offense. We also need to get some stops on defense. We had very few — if any — the first time we played, so getting stops and getting the ball back will be key.”
Crump and the rest of the American Fork team know they are significant underdogs — particularly since the Chargers beat the Cavemen 59-28 on Oct. 16 — but they are relishing that role.
“They are undefeated this season and kids from their team are getting scholarship offers,” Crump said. “We know we have to prepare super-hard and match their intensity. We can’t get behind early. We have to come out firing, not on our heels waiting for them to make the first move. Everyone might be counting on us to lose but we can go out there with nothing to lose and just give it our best.”
Win or lose, Crump said he’s excited to finish out his senior year by playing in the title game.
“It feels weird but it has gone by fast,” Crump said. “It’s been fun to be with all my buddies and get another week to go and finish what we started.”