St. Cyril of Jerusalem eighth grader Matthew Crow has a good excuse for not returning to his Encino school from Christmas break along with his fellow classmates Jan. 3.

He’ll still be in Phoenix, appearing with his football teammates from the Junior Academic All-American Game during halftime at the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl nationally televised Jan. 3 on CBS. The day before, his Junior Academic All-American team will play in their own game at Chase Field after arriving in Arizona Dec. 29 to practice with 120 junior high athletes from around the nation.

The 6’1”, 245-lb. 14-year-old was invited to participate because of his achievements as a scholar-athlete. Even though Crow only took up football four months ago --- after playing ice hockey with his two older brothers since he was five --- he was a standout on his Santa Clarita Wildcats Pop Warner Team. He also played flag football (left guard) on St. Cyril’s team in addition to practicing with the Wildcats every weekday evening in Valencia and playing games on Saturdays.

Crow had joined the Wildcats at the suggestion of a Bishop Alemany High School administrator, since, as an eighth grader/prospective freshman, he can’t practice with the high school team until he is an enrolled freshman. During a Pop Warner play-off game, an opposing team’s coach noticed the nimble player, and recruited him for the local Cal State (Youth) Game over Thanksgiving.

His stellar performance as a center and captain of that team led him to being named as one of the game’s five MVPs; an invitation soon followed to participate in the Junior Academic All-American Game. Players are selected for their exceptional gridiron skills and academic ranking (all participants must maintain a 3.0 grade point average).

Crow, dubbed the gentle giant by his parents and three older siblings, doesn’t like being the center of attention, so he didn’t tell his classmates that he would be going to Arizona for the game over Christmas break. When he knocks down players during practices and games, says his mom Terese, he helps lift them up. 

But helping others is a family tradition. Terese and Bryan Crow, parents to Stephanie (33), Andrew “Gus” (26), Tanner (17) and Matthew (14), have spent 28 consecutive years as school parents at St. Cyril, through five principals and three monsignors. During those years, Terese volunteered at the school as a jog-a-thon organizer, room mom, and head of the Parent Volunteer Committee for four years (among other duties). She continues to publish the “Pipeline” monthly newsletter she started over 15 years ago featuring news from every grade. 

A full-time bookkeeper at St. John Eudes in Chatsworth, Terese sat in the middle of the football field when St. Cyril played St. John Eudes in the play-offs last year. She brought brownies for both teams on game day and sees herself as a link between the two schools.

“Catholic school has been a priority in our home since my husband and I were married 34 years ago,” said Terese. “When it came time for Tanner (a senior at Bishop Alemany) to start high school, we were having trouble meeting the tuition, but my children amazed me. My daughter walked into the kitchen where I had been crying and handed me a checkbook.

“Stephanie told me her boyfriend Sean (now husband), her brother Gus and she were going to split the tuition cost,” Terese recounted to The Tidings at a recent family Sunday dinner gathering which alternates weekly between the Crows’ home in Van Nuys and Stephanie and Sean’s home in Valencia. “Together as a Catholic family we achieved our goals: to keep our kids in a Catholic school until 12th grade.”

“I’m very proud of Stephanie, Sean and Gus” for contributing to Tanner’s tuition, said Bryan, an auto mechanic who works in a gas station garage one block from St. Cyril’s. Every morning he makes the “north-south” tour of the San Fernando Valley as he takes Tanner to Bishop Alemany and then swings back to his job at the Sherman Oaks Union 76. “It’s worth it for the superior education,” said Bryan.

“I decided since my grandparents were gracious in helping me with my education and putting me through law school, I wanted to make sure I helped my siblings,” said Stephanie, a legal secretary and Bishop Alemany High School graduate. 

“It meant a lot to me that they cared enough about my education to help out,” said Tanner, who plans to major in biology at Cal State University, Northridge. His siblings will continue to help with his tuition expenses during college.

“We’re a very close-knit family,” explained Stephanie. “We go to every single hockey and football game of our siblings.”

Her brother Gus, an EMT driver who coached his two younger brothers last season in ice hockey, said Matthew will do well in football. “He’s really got the size and the strength to overpower just about anybody he comes across. I was quite impressed. He understands the game and really gets into it.”

For further information on Junior Academic All-American Game events, log on to The Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl will be televised on CBS Jan. 3, 3 p.m. PST.

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