The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 16, 2013

Crusaders prep for game in Cowboys Stadium

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— Replenishing in a big way could be in the near future for coaches of the non-pro Joplin Crusaders.

That’s jumping ahead, of course, with the Central Football League champions preparing to face the North Texas Stampede at 8:45 p.m. on July 27 in the Summer Bowl at Arlington in Cowboys Stadium.

But Crusader safety Cleavon Williams turned 40 on March 9.

You can bet there’s little difference in the weight of the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Williams from his playing days at New Orleans Clark High School, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College of Miami and Oklahoma State University.

“This game against North Texas will the icing on the cake,” Williams said Saturday during the Crusaders’ barbecue at Leonard Park in Joplin. “Playing in Cowboys Stadium obviously will be special.

“I couldn’t ask for a better finish,” Williams said. “Hopefully, this game will decide a championship.

“We’re No. 2 (the Crusaders, 11-0, hold that ranking in their division by the American Football News),” Williams said. “We have an opportunity to be No. 1 if we win this one.

“I’m looking forward to the game, of course,” Williams said. “I hope it’s a challenging game, too. You want it that way if you’re an athlete.”

Williams said he has appreciated for several years playing with the Crusaders.

“I played with both the Springfield Rifles and Crusaders one year,” Williams said with a laugh.

“We are together,” Williams said. “We have to stay the course.

“Also, at this game, I’ll see a lot of people — relatives and friends — I haven’t seen for years,” Williams said.

Said head coach coach/defensive coordinator Dave Pitts: “Cleavon is the kind of player that comes up with the big hit when it’s needed. He inspires the defense. He knows the game. He’s a great person to have as a teammate.  He knows the game of football. He’s been with us for years.”

Williams, with a grin, insisted to not sweat the possibility of him hanging up his cleats.

“I’ll definitely be around as a coach even if I’m not playing,” he explained.

Williams has four daughters attending school in the Webb City district — Deja, 16; Alexis, 13; Isabel, 7, and Gabby, 6.

2012 honors: Saturday’s barbecue gave the coaches a chance to announce honors from last summer: Walter Coleman (defense), Marcus Finley (rookie), Danny Knighten (special teams), Chris Maples (improved), Tim Murphy (Cru Pride Award) and James Talkington (MVP).