Costa Mesa's Crenshaw playing with purpose

Last week was a special one for junior Oronde Crenshaw. His parents showed up to watch him play a football game for Costa Mesa High.

To have his mother and father, along with his siblings, aunts and grandparents, at one of his games is rare. His father, DeWayne Crenshaw, lives in Utah. His mother, Lilia Mora, has a hard time walking up and down the bleachers.

He understands why his dad cannot come to every game because of the distance. Talking about why his mom cannot always be there is hard for Crenshaw.

The reason why she's not in the stands for each game reminds Crenshaw as to why he lives in Costa Mesa.

Crenshaw previously lived with his father, until he said he moved into the area to be there for his mother before his freshman year. He said Mora was diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago.

"Cancer is a tricky thing. Without chemotherapy, they said she would be dead within a year, but that was two years ago," Crenshaw said. "But she took chemotherapy. She's been up and running. She's a fighter.

"Just to know that she's going through pain that I can't take away, that I can't help, that I can't stop, and it sucks that I'm not able to stop that pain. I would take every inch of that pain and take everything that's hurting her if I could, but I can't."

At times, Crenshaw said he feels guilty about playing while his mother is fighting for her life. He sees his time spent on the field as being away from his mom, helping her, helping his younger siblings.

Mom just pushes her son, because she wants Crenshaw to succeed, to be great. Crenshaw doesn't want to let her down.

Whenever she makes it to one of his games, as she did last week, Crenshaw tends to perform at his best. Seeing dad at one of his games for the first time this season also lifted Crenshaw's spirits.

Crenshaw rushed 23 times for 266 yards and four touchdowns, a career night coming in a 58-12 win against Saddleback. He made a dozen tackles as a middle linebacker.

"It was a big game for me to show my family what I could do," said Crenshaw, who led the Mustangs to their first Orange Coast League win this year. "I wouldn't have been able to do what I did without my five linemen, all those other 10 players [on the field]."

Crenshaw learned at a young age that a team could accomplish more than an individual.

At age 14, Crenshaw became a father figure to his young brother. The two boys, Gary, 5, and Marlee, 4, are energetic and they look up to No. 30. They want to run as physical as the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Crenshaw does, hit as hard as he does when they're in high school.

Crenshaw gets emotional when he imagines the boys in high school.

"Knowing that my mom might not be there for their high school years … dwells on me and dwells on my whole family," Crenshaw said. "We just decide that we have to give every inch of love and let them know that their mom loves them, and let them know that what we do is because we love them."

Crenshaw plays for his family, even if they cannot attend his games.

Having his dad at the last game was an experience he will never forget. He has looked up to his father since he was a kid.

Crenshaw remembers the stories DeWayne told about how he was part of Costa Mesa's best football team 19 years ago, when the Mustangs reached the CIF Southern Section Division VIII title game, the program's only section title-game appearance.

"He doesn't really like to talk about the game, but he likes to talk about his [team's title] run," Crenshaw said with a smile. "They ended up getting beat [by Trabuco Hills], 44-6."

The first time Coach Wally Grant saw Oronde Crenshaw run, he called him "DeWayne." Crenshaw, a freshman at the time, just laughed.

Grant coached DeWayne, a fullback and defensive end, as an assistant at Costa Mesa. Getting to coach DeWayne's son is a pleasure.

"It brings back memories because DeWayne … was a Division I athlete," Grant said. "He was the first true Division I athlete this school had since probably Bill Lux and Danny Bauer back in the late 1970s. For a school to get that caliber of an athlete is pretty special, and then to have his kid, who's just as bit as talented here is phenomenal.

"[A lot of colleges] have their eyes out on Oronde. After this year, it's going to get real, real fun watching that young man be recruited."

Twitter: @DCPenaloza


Oronde Crenshaw

Born: June 10, 1996

Hometown: Hemet

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 195 pounds

Sport: Football

Year: Junior

Coach: Wally Grant

Favorite food: Dad's grits

Favorite movie: "Lone Wolf and Cub"

Favorite athletic moment: "The first time I got to step on the basketball court with my dad. I was probably like 8 or 9. It was like my first athletic experience."

Week in review: Crenshaw rushed 23 times for 266 yards and four touchdowns in the Mustangs' 58-12 victory against Saddleback in an Orange Coast League game.

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