The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 30, 2013

Walter Coleman sparkles in Crusaders' bowl

Sam Sturgis, a Joplin Crusader teammate on the offensive side, had no doubt about the quality of performance turned in by defensive back Walter Coleman in Saturday night’s Summer Bowl against the Dallas-Fort Worth Eagles in Cowboys Stadium.

“Three interceptions, at least two deflected passes and several big hits,” Sturgis said Tuesday. “That may have been Walter’s best game as a Crusader.”

The Eagles rallied in the fourth quarter from a 35-24 deficit to shock the Crusaders 40-35 at Arlington. It was the non-pro Central Football League champion Crusaders’ first loss after 11 wins.

The Globe, because of this reporter’s mistake, had the score and headline incorrect in Tuesday’s editions.

Joplin head coach Dave Pitts agreed with Sturgis: “Walter played a great all-around game. I couldn’t guess how many total tackles.

“He’s one of our veterans,” Pitts said. “He’s been an outstanding leader. He’s a very good athlete.”

Coleman, with a laugh, left the impression that maybe he’s played better for the Crusaders. But not this year.

“Maybe I had four or five interceptions entering the game,” Coleman said. “But I’ve been sluggish. I opened up this last game. So, it was my best game of this season.

“I actually took that second interception from (teammate) Blu Cato,” Coleman added with a chuckle.

That sluggishness, Coleman said, is the result of an ankle injury sustained while playing for the Joplin Enforcers.

“I’m a running back for the Enforcers,” Coleman, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, said.

Coleman, who’s in his third season with the Crusaders, was an offensive player — a slot receiver — at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami.

He came out of Denton (Texas) High School (a 2007 graduate) to play for the Golden Norsemen. Pitts was impressed with the number of fans Coleman had cheering at Arlington.

“I probably had 10-15 friends or family at the game,” Coleman. “That made the game even more special.

“We worked hard. We earned it,” Coleman said of the Joplin season. “I thought we performed well at Arlington.”

Coleman is employed by Joplin Coca-Cola Bottling Company. He also is a volunteer firefighter and hopes to eventually do that full-time.

Joplin specialty teams coach Mike Sturgis thought the effort of his group set the tone for the splendid first half (a 20-8 lead) for the Crusaders.

A fumble recovery by Joplin’s Cleavon Williams on the opening kickoff was called back. A fumble recovery by Jordan Highley set up the scoring drive for the second Joplin touchdown.

“Some of our young guys on the specialty teams eventually will become starters,” Mike Sturgis said. “Our specialty teams played their best game of the season. Those guys came to play.

“Walter (Coleman) played at a high level,” Mike Sturgis said. “He has a nose for the ball.”

 

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