Windsor QB Cromartie a study in work ethic, leadership and success

Photo of Scott Ericson

Windsor football coach Robert Fleeting has to watch the game film as closely as he can each weekend right, knowing a quiz is coming from quarterback Elijah Cromartie.

Fleeting said each weekend after a game, Cromartie is breaking down every snap and coming back to practice Monday with both questions and solutions.

“He watches so much film. His work watching film really separates him,” Fleeting said. “He comes in after watching film on the weekend and he’ll say ‘coach I need you to watch this clip and this clip and this clip. I think the pass protection looked this way, what did you think of our pass protection?’ He makes me watch film because I can’t say ‘I don’t know, I haven’t seen it yet.’ I’m watching film more closely just so I can answer his questions.”

The studying has paid off as Windsor will be playing for a state championship this coming weekend.

Windsor, seeded No. 6 in the CIAC Class L Tournament, will face No. 3 Maloney at 11 a.m. Saturday at Veteran’s Stadium in New Britain.

That film work was on display in Windsor’s 35-31 Class L semifinal win over St. Joseph.

Cromartie, a junior in his third year as a starter, learned from Windsor’s 45-22 loss to St. Joe’s in September and took that knowledge into Sunday’s contest.

“I think he learned a lot from the first time we played St. Joe’s. He saw things and in the game he’s reminding kids about blitz pickups and moving this guy over there and putting two other guys on a guy blitzing from the other side,” Fleeting said. “He’s constantly talking to kids and coaching them up. He’s not afraid to get on anybody, too. He will tell a kid if they are messing up. He will tell the coaches ‘this guy is messing up, get someone else in here.’ He is a great leader and a natural leader.”

With his team trailing by 22 at halftime, Cromartie helped keep his team focused and energized at halftime and in the second half, started leading his team back.

Cromartie threw two second-half touchdowns to Prince Samuels and with 5:07 remaining in the game, hit Ray Rodriguez for a 7-yard touchdown to put Windsor in the lead.

Cromartie also threw three interceptions, but finished with 207 yards passing and four touchdown passes.

He accounted for maybe the biggest play of the game with his legs.

Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Cromartie ran out of the pocket, then dashed for the first-down marker on the visitor sideline.

Seemingly stopped, Cromartie kept his legs churning and with a helpful push from some offensive linemen, moved the pile five yards from where Cromartie was initially stopped for a critical first down on the St. Joe 35-yard line.

He emerged from the bottom of that pile without one of his shoes, but with a first down and ton of confidence.

“Going into half, I said this is comeback season and we came back and played hard. Our o-line got blood on their shirts, blood, sweat and tears. All we did was practice, practice, practice and we were prepared and we got the job done today,” Cromartie said. “We write our own story. The whole week everybody was writing about us, and doubting us so we have to write our own story. It helps us when it is everyone against us. It gives us motivation when there are people talking bad about the team and saying we weren’t going to do it, but we did it.”

Cromartie was in complete command of the offense during the second-half rally.

His coach was not surprised by the leadership.

“We have a world of confidence in (Cromartie) running this offense,” Fleeting said. “If our offensive coordinator ever got sick, he could step in and call the plays probably. He knows it all very well. He’s a smart kid and he’s a tough kid and competitor. He bounces back from anything, he’s tough. Just so tough.”

Cromartie has thrown for 2,251 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. On the ground he has run for 179 yards and 9 touchdowns.

He took over as the starter in his freshman season in 2019, helping the team to a 7-3 record, just missing the Class L playoffs by three points.

Cromartie said the team committed to contending for a state title over the summer with intense workouts.

“We lost the COVID season and we came back in the summer focused. We ran gassers and gassers and more gassers through the summer. Everything was planned out for the right reasons, to make us better and get us ready for games like (Sunday),” Cromartie said. “This season we were just dogs and just came out and balled out and battled every week. It feels good, it really feels good. This team has been 24/7, 365, grinding, grinding, grinding. All we wanted to do was get to this point and we are here.”

This summer also offered a glimpse of Windsor’s offensive capabilities.

In what may have been a harbinger of things to come, Windsor came out of nowhere to win the New Canaan Grip it and Rip it 7-on-7 Passing Tournament this past July, getting past some of the best teams from the SCC, FCIAC and SWC.; @EricsonSports