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High School Football Player of the Week: Braden Crabtree ignites Ocean View offense

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Braden Crabtree helped Ocean View average 44.5 points in its last two games, both blowout victories.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Whether it is on the football field or just life, in general, opportunity may only knock once.

When Braden Crabtree transferred to Ocean View High at the start of last year, he understood this to be true.

The Seahawks already had a quarterback in Noah Hickman. Crabtree, who arrived from Fountain Valley as a junior, played the role of the understudy.

“It was very good for me to watch somebody like Hickman, as calm and collected as he was during games, just to learn from him,” Crabtree said. “He’s a great football player. He’s very smart. He might not have the strongest arm, but he makes up for it with his mind.”

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Ocean View’s last two quarterbacks transferred into the program, hoping to receive opportunities they otherwise would not have had.

Hickman came over after the 11-man football program folded at Brethren Christian. He would go on to lead the Seahawks to a share of the inaugural Pac 4 League crown last season, the program’s first league championship since 1989.

“I’ve been very blessed to have loyal coaches for so long,” Seahawks coach Luis Nuñez said. “The continuity helps to develop. We have a culture, I think, now. I’ve been here for eight years.

“Kids know that we have high expectations for them, and we do a good job of sustaining a good environment for kids … like Braden and Hickman to come in and compete and give these kids opportunities.”

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Crabtree has an appreciation for those that beat the odds. He idolizes Tom Brady. The reasoning for his admiration, in large part, is because the New England Patriots quarterback was selected in the sixth round, and he has gone on to win six Super Bowls.

“What I love about Tom Brady is that man works harder than anybody that is in the league every single year, and he’s like 50-something,” Crabtree said. “Well, he’s 42.

“To overcome being a sixth-round draft pick, and then be the greatest quarterback, probably player, ever in football history is incredible. He’s a real idol of mine.”

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Ocean View quarterback Braden Crabtree throws a pass against Estancia in a nonleague game at Orange Coast College on Sept. 19.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Take a look at Crabtree from afar, and he might bear a resemblance to Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, he is tall in stature, and he also has shoulder-length blonde hair which he hasn’t cut since March of his sophomore year.

He certainly will not be mistaken for Hickman, who rushed for 611 yards and 16 touchdowns in his senior season.

The Seahawks have adjusted their offense to complement the abilities of their new signal-caller. The ball comes out of Crabtree’s hands quickly, which also helped out a brand-new offensive line early on.

“He truly has a big arm,” Nuñez said. “In my years at Ocean View, he by far has the best arm that we’ve had at quarterback. We changed our offense to help him and put him in a position to use his strengths.

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“He’s getting the ball out to receivers out wide. If defenses want to stack the box and try to stop our run, we can hit them with long and short passes.”

Ocean View’s heavy use of short patterns does not mean Crabtree will not take his shots. He has never had to worry about that, even when he was throwing to Blake Anderson on the lower-level teams at Fountain Valley.

Anderson, a senior for the Barons, is among the Orange County leaders in receiving yards. He had 51 receptions for 855 yards and eight touchdowns entering Week 8.

The primary target for Crabtree now is Brandon Alcaraz, who has 43 catches for 734 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Ocean View quarterback Braden Crabtree, right, celebrates with receiver Brandon Alcaraz after the two hooked up for a 10-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against Estancia at Orange Coast College on Sept. 19.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“He’s so aggressive to the ball,” Crabtree said of Alcaraz. “You could just put it anywhere in his general area, and he is going to catch that ball.”

Crabtree has enough confidence in Alcaraz, Hunter Arce and Michael Da Rosa as receivers that he will give them a chance to make a play. In a 12-7 win over Estancia on Sept. 19, Crabtree connected with Da Rosa on a slant route that went for a 22-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-10 play.

Admittedly, Crabtree said that the season has not been mistake-free. One tough moment came when he threw an interception in the end zone with his team driving for the lead in the fourth quarter against visiting Dana Hills on Sept. 27.

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The healing process began immediately during the same play.

“It was tough,” Crabtree said of his pivotal interception against the Dolphins, who went on to beat the Seahawks 20-7. “Right after I threw it, I was like, ‘I cannot let them return this.’ I went and made a tackle.

“You just have to flush it from your memory, because if you just hang on to it, you’re never going to get over it. I just stopped thinking about it at that point, learned my lesson and kept moving forward.”

Crabtree has excelled in blowout wins over rival Westminster and Cerritos since then. He has produced five passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns in those two games. The first-year starter was responsible for five touchdowns for the Seahawks in a 48-14 road win over the Dons on Oct. 11.

Ocean View stunned host Western 45-7 in the Pac 4 League finale last season. The Pioneers, who went on to win the CIF Southern Section Division 11 championship, have not forgotten that result.

As the Seahawks played the Dons at Rants Stadium on the campus of Cerritos Gahr High, Ocean View players and coaches noticed a sizeable contingent of Western blue in the stands.

Nuñez knows that his team faces a tough task to keep Western’s Division I-bound receivers Caine Savage (Arizona State) and Cassius Savage (San Diego State) in check.

“That was definitely a sign of they’re going to be ready,” Nuñez said of the Pioneers being in the crowd. “I expect them to be ready. Obviously, they’ve got a big chip on their shoulder from last year. We know that we’re going to get their best effort. We know that we’ve got our hands full. We don’t have guys like Caine and Cassius at Ocean View, nothing close to those guys.

“It’s going to take a true team effort from our part, guys doing their job, and guys just playing hard.”

Ocean View (5-2) will once again be playing the role of the underdog when it hosts Western (6-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. The Pioneers come into the game ranked No. 8 in Division 10.

On the cusp of his first Pac 4 League game as a senior, Crabtree said he has respect for the Pioneers, but he is not intimidated by them. He believes that the extended nonleague schedule, which is seven games because there are only four teams in the league, helped the offense find its rhythm.

“I’m glad that we got that extra time because we got those two games under our belt where we know what we’re about,” Crabtree said. “What better way to start league than Western. It’s a great test for us.”

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Ocean View senior Braden Crabtree has thrown for 12 touchdowns and rushed for five touchdowns through seven games this season.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Braden Crabtree

Born: Oct. 18, 2001

Hometown: Fountain Valley

Height: 6 feet 2

Weight: 215 pounds

Sport: Football

Year: Senior

Coach: Luis Nuñez

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite movie: “The Dark Knight”

Favorite athletic moment: Ocean View beat host Westminster 41-13 on Oct. 4 in the Battle for the Bugle rivalry game. Crabtree had two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.

Week in review: Crabtree threw for three touchdowns and ran for two scores in Ocean View’s 48-14 victory over Cerritos in a nonleague road game last week.

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