The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 11, 2013

Defense lifts Crusaders to championship game

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— It would have been difficult for Dave Pitts, defensive coordinator of the Joplin Crusaders, to pass out a single game ball on Saturday night.

“That probably was our best defensive game of the season,” Pitts said Tuesday. “By far that was our best game for interceptions (five players each had a pick).”

The Crusaders, reaching the title game of the postseason Central Football League playoffs, jolted the Northern Oklahoma Ruffnecks 42-6 in Fred G. Hughes Stadium at Missouri Southern State University.

The Crusaders, 9-0 (this reporter incorrectly had them 10-0 in Sunday’s Globe), entertain defending champion Enid (7-1) at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Fred G. Hughes Stadium.

Enid, which defeated the Kansas Cougars 31-8 in the other semifinal, lost 31-28 at Joplin on April 13.

The Enforcers, of course, came to Joplin in 2012 and rallied for a 28-21 win in the playoff final after losing 41-26 to the Crusaders during the regular season.

Said Pitts: “We shrugged off some early mistakes. Remember, we hadn’t played since May 18.

“Our defensive line really dominated as the game progressed,” Pitts said. “The Ruffnecks didn’t play as well as they did in the first game of the season (a 19-15 win for Joplin). Some of their personnel was different.

“But we played very, very well on defense,” Pitts said. “We didn’t allow them to capitalize very much. A 15-yard penalty and a long pass set up their touchdown late in the second quarter.”

Jordan Highley and James Minor recovered fumbles for the Crusaders.

Brenden Gubera, Joplin offensive coordinator, said the Crusaders finished with 530 yards.

Starting quarterback Matt Thompson completed 6 of 12 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, He also carried three times for 34 yards.

Robert Lockett added 65 passing yards on 7-for-7 accuracy and had 17 on the ground.

Kenny Ray Session Jr. paced the rushing attack with 186 yards on 15 carries and Heath Baker added 70 on nine carries.

Receiving leaders were John Davis (four receptions for 74 yards) and Matt Rice (4-54).