ARCOLA – Jim Crane’s involvement in Byron Bradford’s June 2021 memorial ceremony may seem strange to the uninitiated.
Or even those who know Crane well.
Crane, 50, is a 1989 graduate of Arthur High School. Bradford, who died in October 2020 at the age of 81, was a longtime football assistant coach for Arcola who helped the Purple Riders win three state championships, including two when Crane was in a rival high school.
That reality had not escaped Shane Lammers, a Purple Riders alumnus and University of Illinois officer who served with Crane in the National Guard.
“(Lammers) says, ‘What the hell is an Arthur Knight doing a Purple Rider MC?'” Crane recalled. “I later saw him at the local pub and said, ‘Hey Shane, Arcola High School is the only secondary school left. I had to transfer my membership. ‘”
In fact, Arthur High is now called Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond High.
But Crane is heavily invested in Arcola athletics today, even after sons Sam (2018) and Ben (2020) graduated from the institution.
“It’s a special place,” said Jim Crane. “Let’s be honest: The football tradition at Arcola is unsurpassed. It was always kind of nice to watch it from the outside. Then actually to be part of it … it’s nice to be a part of it. “
Crane’s most famous responsibility is tied to the Purple Riders’ football.
He and Arcola graduate Jason Goad – Douglas County Highway Department staff – get together outside of the office to create hype content for Arcola’s football videoboard and YouTube channel. Crane also operates the scoreboard during games.
None of this mentions his role as vice president of the Arcola School Board, nor his previous tenures as coach of local Junior Football League athletes and junior high and high school basketball players.
“People have to give back to make sure the programs move forward,” said Crane. “As long as I can and I want to, I’ll keep doing it.”
This second comment relates specifically to his soccer videos and his efforts on the scoreboard.
Crane said the idea for hype videos came from former Purple Riders trainer Zach Zehr when Zehr took over the team in 2013. The concept continued to gain momentum when the school added its current scoreboard and video board setup in 2015.
“He got the idea that we could do an intro walkout video and stuff like that,” said Crane. “So I’ll go to the practice and make videos, and we’ll put together a little montage and upload it.
“So, when they go out in the pregame, we always put up all the pictures of the children with their position and year (and the same with the cheerleaders). And we always try to bring something to the opposing team … and welcome them to Thomas-Bradford Field and try to make a big production out of it, not just for the Arcola kids, but for all the kids on both sides of the game of football . “
This tradition has been continued since Zehr’s departure after the 2016 season and has continued since then with Nick Lindsey as football coach and sports director of the Purple Riders.
“That makes our program special and it’s another cool experience for our kids,” said Lindsey. “Jim does everything. He takes an afternoon off the preseason and puts all the video together. It’s really great. And he also does a lot of troubleshooting our scoreboards when they don’t work. “
Interestingly, some of Crane’s best football memories of his days as a scoreboarder are linked to Arcola’s defeats.
One is the 41-34 loss to Camp Point Central on November 8, 2014, in the second round of Class 1A postseason. It was the only setback of the year for the Purple Riders.
“We were 21-0 down at halftime and took the lead again with a minute and a half,” said Crane. “When (we) went out and (they) brought that kickoff into the house, it just drained everyone.”
Another is an 8-0 loss to Hardin Calhoun on October 29, 2016 in the opening round of the 1A playoffs.
“We’re up there in the box just talking back and forth and it’s like, ‘The first person to score is going to win,'” said Crane. “We moved the ball across the field … and had a wide open hole for our running back, and a defensive lineman scraped down and hit the guy perfectly. The ball shoots straight into the air, about 10 meters forward and straight into the hands of the free safety, and it brings it into the house. “
The final game on his highlight role is Arcola’s 45-42 loss to rival Tuscola on September 6, 2019. Crane describes it as “the heavyweight snail festival,” an assessment mirrored by Warriors trainer Andy Romine at the time was when he compared the matchup to “a Sugar Ray Leonard fight in the 1980s”.
Crane takes its job as a scoreboard operator seriously. He doesn’t want to be the reason the outcome of a game is being questioned.
“You want to be absolutely fair to both sides … and you want to make sure everything is done as perfectly as possible,” said Crane. “I’m better at it now that my two children have graduated. Now I can actually only do my job and don’t have this emotional connection to it. “
Crane’s connection with the Purple Riders shouldn’t end anytime soon. Lindsey is glad it stays that way.
“He’s got some funny stories about the times he played over there at Arthur Arcola,” said Lindsey. “It’s always nice to have locals who love your community and are ready to help.”
Even so, Crane will miss this year’s football version of Cola Wars – the August 27th season opener against Tuscola at Arcola’s Thomas-Bradford Field – because he is attending his eldest son’s class ring ceremony at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY
“We will have prepared (the video) for everyone who will take my place in this game,” said Crane. “Hopefully we can get back to normal this year and have some big crowds and have fun.”