MISSOULA — The Missoula Sentinel Spartans have won 19 straight football games coming into this week and on Friday they'll host Kalispell Glacier in the Class AA semifinal round, the third straight year the Spartans have made it this far into the postseason.
A big reason behind all of their success is senior Zac Crews, a player who has stood out all over the football field for the Spartans and has starred in two other sports during his storied career at Sentinel.
Coming into his senior year, it would be hard to top the junior year Crews put together.
A two-way starter on a state championship football team, a third-place finish in wrestling, and a pair of state championships in track had his stock rising.
But senior year is already off to a bang for Crews again in football, who made the switch to quarterback from tight end, committed to the Montana Grizzlies football team for next season, and again has the Spartans positioned for a state championship run.
"It's incredible," Crews said. "This team, they've had high expectations from the moment we started fall camp so I think it's really awesome to see how everybody else on this team, even the younger guys, have held themselves with maybe even higher expectations than we did last year. Maintaining that level of play is just awesome."
Crews, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, began his high school career as a quarterback his freshman year, but was moved to tight end and defensive end where he became a two-way starter as a sophomore for the Spartans.
As a junior, he was all-state at both positions as Sentinel went 10-0 and won the Class AA state championship.
But Sentinel felt its best chance at winning in 2021 was with Crews at quarterback, so he made the switch back to there as a senior, making him the rare Class AA athlete to play both defensive line and QB. Crews credits his teammates and coaches for their help to make his multiple transitions easier.
"My hard work, you can actually see the results now and credit to everybody else on the team who also switched positions because I had to switch positions," Crews said. "I've taken away some guys spots and some guys have taken away my spots but the way our team flows is its the next man up so that's exactly what I've done and other kids on our team have done."
On the football field this year, Crews has completed 65% of his passes for 1,414 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He's the team's leading rusher with 696 yards on the ground and another nine scores. Defensively, Crews has 21 total tackles, 6.5 for loss, and 1.5 sacks, not something every quarterback in the state can claim.
Also a 4.0 student in the classroom, last year was Crews' first in the high school varsity wrestling ranks after previously playing varsity basketball as a sophomore. He finished in third in the 205-pound wrestling bracket in March. In the spring, he won won his first individual titles in track and field in javelin and the 110 hurdles as Sentinel also took the boys team title in May.
Essentially, give him a sport, and he'll likely run with it.
"(Junior year) was just a fun year," Crews said. "With COVID, it kind of took away some aspects of varsity sports but enjoying what we got to do was a lot of fun and to be able to put up the results I did, looking back on it, I'm extremely proud of what I did last year and I know a lot of other people are the same way. But I think its just exciting especially when the conditions weren't the best."
So expectations were high for Crews after he blew up as a junior, both from himself, and from the outside. And Crews has found a way to balance some of the pressure that has grown over the last year, and he said his family has helped keep him grounded throughout all of the highs and lows.
"Just trying to get better at whatever I was doing and not so much focusing on the result because the process is going to take you to the result you want," Crews said. "So focusing on little things especially in football and getting back into the quarterback mentality, working on some mechanics. And then wrestling season is coming up so just working on some little things I can improve on and then into track season and working on my running form like always and maybe try a few other events that maybe I can shine in.
"I would say just going to practice everyday with a smile on your face willing to work as hard as you possibly can."
But the versatile athlete has just proven time and time again to be good at whatever is thrown his way no matter the sport, but there's still work to be done for Crews and the rest of his teammates before his time at Sentinel comes to a close.
"We've just really been pounding the idea that every snap could be our last snap of the season so at practice we've been going hard and trying to hone in on things we need to improve on," Crews said. "We just think we haven't played our best game yet so we have to keep working at practice. Just doing our 1/11th and making sure everybody is focused and ready to go come Friday."