The Crusader football team finished the regular season off with a statement last Saturday in their matchup against East Texas Baptist in Marshall. Dominating every aspect of the game, the Cru defeated the tigers 83-19.
Offense, defense and special teams were all in sync for the purple and gold. Even though the Tigers opened the game with the first score, the Crusaders quickly answered by a Blake Jackson run for a touchdown. That opened the door for a plethora of Cru touchdowns.
Kamray Runnels scored on multiple punt returns. Although his first one was called back on a penalty, the team showed that they have the depth and skill at every position to make noise in the Division III playoffs that start this weekend.
“I think we played a good game against ETBU, we brought everything together and it makes it better that we played like that the week before playoffs start. We still have work to do, but we are heading down the right track for sure,” senior offensive lineman Riley Holmes said.
Although the Crusaders racked up 476 total yards, penalties diminished a few scoring opportunities for the Cru, as well as allowing ETBU to extend drives.
“We know what we are capable of on both sides of the ball, but one thing that has to improve is the penalties,” senior tight end Ben Keilman said. “We can’t afford to have that many penalties in the playoffs.”
The offense was obviously explosive on Saturday, but the defense was stout as well, scoring multiple times on that side of the ball. Teidrick Smith and Kris Brown both found themselves in the end zone.
But the story of the day for the defensive squad was junior linebacker Trey Thedford, finishing a career day with 16 total tackles that came up one short of the school record for one game.
With the win, the Cru clinched their tenth conference title in a row. It also propelled their regular season winning streak to 54 games.
Even with those outstanding numbers, the team is searching for the accolade that has been eluding the Crusaders in past year.
“We have high expectations for the rest of the season. Since my teammates and I have become a part of this program, we have been playing for that national championship, and I think we have all of the pieces in place to get that done,” Holmes said.
Just like the past couple of years, the first playoff game will be played at Crusader Stadium. UMHB is currently ranked #2 in the national rankings, trailing by just a few votes to first place the University-Wisconsin Whitewater.
The game will happen at 12 p.m. this Saturday against the Bulldogs of Texas Lutheran University. Crusaders are encouraged to come out for the first step of the playoff journey and support the Cru as they reach toward bringing home their first ever NCAA Division III National Championship title.
The winner of this matchup will face either Oregon’s Linfield College or Chapman University from California.