The end zone emerged as sophomore quarterback Zach Anderson raced down the right sideline. The turf propelled him; nearly 150 fi eld lights lit his way.
More than 9,000 fans rose to witness the first touchdown at Crusader Stadium — football’s new home.
Junior history major Matt Boden said that from his seat in the student section, he could see only purple and gold as he scanned the stadium.
“All these people are here reppin’ the Cru .… I couldn’t even recognize any Wesley people,” he said.
Attendance was 9,384, nearly all of them Crusaders. That’s what a home is filled with: family. On the field, the Cru handled business by marching on to a 35-7 victory over the Wolverines. It was what happened off the field that gave the team even more momentum.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the game ball was run from Old Baylor in Independence, Texas. In 1845, the school was chartered in Independence. That started the run toward the opening of a new era. The historic run allowed students, staff and alumni the opportunity to honor the school’s heritage and carry the ball into the future.
Senior pre-physical therapy major Stephanie Harris and her roommate ran four miles of the 150-mile trip around 6 a.m.
“It was really exciting being a part of history at UMHB,” she said, “especially since it was my senior year.”
The ball arrived in time for the rally Thursday night. Harris said she was honored when she saw the ball being run into the stadium—“knowing I had been a part of getting it there.” The rally itself gave students a chance to get ready for the game. Despite the rain, many students attended.
“It was a really cool experience,” junior Christian ministries major Rusty Pregeant said. Students got to run out onto the field before filing into the student section. At the rally, the students learned what is being called the “Cru Dance” which “gets you pumped up,” Pregeant said. In the moments before the game, Crusaders gathered to eat and fellowship.
“The tailgating was better than in the past,” junior marketing major T.J. Kittrell said. “It was a good environment…. It brought together the UMHB students.”
There was a crulectric buzz at the start of the game. The time had come. For the national anthem, students stretched an American flag that covered well over half of the field. Senior social work major Allison Kelley was one of more than 100 students who held the flag. “Being on the brand new field and holding the American flag was emotional,” she said. Vintage warplanes performed a fly-by. “It had a cool feel to it because the school does have such an old heritage,” Boden said. He also had a unique view of the fireworks show. As a resident assistant for Independence Village, he left the game at the half, but had no doubt concerning the game’s conclusion.
“I heard this big boom,” he said. He thought, “Either it’s thundering outside, we’re under attack by North Korea, or the fireworks started earlier than I thought. It was the third option.” He went outside to see a sky filled with color, illuminating Independence Village. In the distance, the lights of the stadium shone on Crusader nation.
Since 1998, football games have been played at Belton High School’s Tiger Field. Vice President for Student Life Dr. Byron Weathersbee sent a message that read: “Home games come home.”
To Boden, that email said it all.
“There’s just something about having a victory in your house, not at your friend’s house that you’re borrowing for a while.”
Kelley was excited that she will be a part of the new stadium and the new history.
“I’m glad I was here to experience it. It’s something that no one will ever forget.”
It took a lot for the stadium to become reality. Between generous donations from the McLane family, to the stadium ideas of renowned designer Earl Santee, to the anticipation of an energetic student body, this is home. And negative 31 rushing yards for a talented Wolverine offense is a pretty good start to protecting home. There is much room at the new stadium—room for history to be made. But one thing is certain: the foundation is set.