By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
The Joplin Crusaders shrugged off a sluggish start to handle the Oklahoma Tornadoes 52-0 on Saturday night at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.
Joplin, already champion of the non-pro Central Football League at 6-0, improved to 7-0 with the nonconference win against a member of the Oklahoma Developmental League.
The Crusaders finish the regular season by entertaining the Oklahoma Braves, also from the ODL, at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Missouri Southern State University.
Joplin head coach/defensive coordinator Dave Pitts said Sunday the slow start wasn’t totally unexpected since the Crusaders hadn’t played since April 20 because of an open date and forfeit.
“We came out a little rusty on both sides of the ball,” Pitts said. “However, as the game progressed, the defense started flying around and hitting.
“We played a lot better in the second half and we were able to play more people than usual,” Pitts said.
The offensive player of the game for the Crusaders, Pitts and offensive coordinator Brenden Gubera indicated, was quarterback Robert Lockett in relief of Matt Thompson.
“We pulled Matt immediately after he twisted an ankle in the first quarter,” Pitts said. “I’m confident he’ll be able to play next week. But Robert (Lockett) certainly stepped up.”
Lockett completed 6 of 7 passes for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
Gubera liked the Joplin offensive balance — 189 rushing and 181 passing for 370.
“Robert took command of the offense,” Gubera said of Lockett. “He ;led the team.”
The Crusaders led 17-0 at the half on Kenny Ray Session Jr.’s 1-yard plunge, Jason Bromley’s 35-yard field goal and Lockett’s 34-yard pass to Matt Rice. Bromley finished 7-for-7 in conversions.
Heath Baker returned the second-half kickoff 83 yards to open the scoring for Joplin in the third period.
Lockett’s 3-yard pass to Scott Thompson and Session’s 34-yard run tacked on Joplin TDs in the third quarter.
Lockett and Sam Sturgis hooked up for a 49-yard scoring pass in the final quarter before Brett McLean tallied on a 14-yard run.
Session finished with 104 yards on 10 carries and Lockett added 52 on three. Rice caught four passes for 79 yards.
Joplin defensively received a pass interception from Blu Cato. Antwan Dyer and Chris Maples recovered fumbles.