Valley News Dispatch boys athlete of the year: Highlands’ Crise savored super senior seasons

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Sunday, June 28, 2020 | 3:58 PM


While coronavirus restrictions disrupted life all over the country this spring and summer, some people found a way to see positives in it as it gave them time to focus on their craft.

Highlands’ Johnny Crise is one of those people.

“It kind of helped me in a way because all I do is eat, sleep and lift now,” Crise said with a laugh as he prepares to walk on to the Penn State football team in the fall.

Before the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the country, Crise had put together a special senior year.

The 6-foot-7 athlete started off by leading the Golden Rams football team with 38 catches for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. He also solidified the secondary and tallied 48 tackles and one interception from his safety position.

Although Crise will be play football at the next level, he might have made his biggest impact on the basketball court.

Crise, who fielded multiple Division I basketball offers, provided the Golden Rams with a consistent inside presence on both ends of the floor. He averaged 14.7 points as a senior and completed several highlight-reel dunks that helped the Golden Rams to a record of 23-4.

In the playoffs, when it mattered most, Crise took his game to another level. In Highlands’ three WPIAL playoff games, Crise averaged 20.3 points. He only scored 11 points in a quarterfinal contest against Ringgold but bounced back with two straight double-double performances.

He scored 27 points and grabbed 16 rebounds against Blackhawk in the semifinals, then produced a 23-point, 14-rebound effort against Belle Vernon in the WPIAL championship game. It was Highlands’ first WPIAL basketball title since 1995.

For his efforts throughout his shortened senior year, Crise was named the Valley News Dispatch boys athlete of the year.

Before everything was shut down, did your senior year go as you hoped?

Definitely. From a basketball standpoint, we definitely did what we wanted to and did what we’ve been trying to do also. For football, we just did the best that we could, and that’s the way it came out.

You didn’t get to finish off your high school athletic career in the spring, but how did it feel to go out on top with a WPIAL title in basketball?

That was probably the best feeling, and that’s probably why that I’m not so heartbroken about not playing sports in the spring because I went out with a bang.

What’s your favorite moment from your high school career?

Definitely winning the WPIAL championship.

How excited are you to head to Penn State in the fall?

I’m stoked, and I’ve been itching for it. I’ve been in contact with coaches almost every day, trying to get a feel for it, and I can’t wait to get up there and be surrounded by one of the best. It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go up there because if you want to be the best, you have to train with the best and you have to lift with the best, so I can’t wait.

How difficult was it to choose between the two sports?

It was probably one of the hardest decisions because no matter what I picked, I always felt like I was picking the wrong one. But in the end, I feel like football was the way to go for me, and I just went with my heart and my family’s choice and we picked that.

What are you doing to prepare?

Just a lot of agility and strength training. Those are the main things I need to do, just get stronger and get my weight up. So it’s a lot of lifting, a lot of running and a lot of eating.

Do you know what you will be majoring in?

My first year, I’m going to go in undecided, so we’ll decide after that.

What’s your life been like during the coronavirus outbreak?

It’s been crazy. My brother is a track coach down in West Virginia, so I was lucky enough to get some equipment from him, so all it’s been really is training, eating and that’s it.

Have you picked up any new hobbies?

I’ve been kayaking with my friends a couple times, and it’s safe because everyone is still 6 feet apart and everything, so that’s been an adventure.

Did you look up to any older Highlands athletes when you were young?

I always looked up to my brother Logan a lot when I started playing because of how hard he worked and how he wanted to perfect his craft. So it was kind of like I had shoes to fill, and I think that’s kind of what drove me to be the athlete that I am today.

If you could play anyone from the WPIAL 1-on-1, who would it be and why?

I’d probably say Mike Carmody (Mars). Me and him go way back in AAU and everything, so playing 1-on-1 with him would be fun.

Do you have any superstitions when it comes to athletics?

I always waited until right before game time to put my jersey on. Then during one home game, I forgot to put it on. So when they called my name for the starting five, I took my warmup shirt off and I didn’t have it on, so I had to run downstairs and grab it. I like to do that to snap into focus.

What was it like to be a Golden Ram?

It was great. The teachers, the coaches, everyone there is just great. They treated me great, and I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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