The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 29, 2013

Crusaders can't hold big lead, fall in game at Cowboys Stadium

The Joplin Crusaders built a 28-8 lead early in the third period before losing 45-40 to the Dallas-Fort Worth Eagles in the Summer Bowl in Cowboys Stadium at Arlington on Saturday night.

The Crusaders, champions of the Central Football League, finished 11-1 under the primary guidance of Dave Pitts and Brenden Gubera.

Said Pitts on Monday: “We had them (the Eagles) beaten until about two minutes left. I told our guys I had never been more proud of a team.”

Said Gubera: “It’s very disappointing. We did some really good things on both defense and offense in the first five minutes to take a 14-0 lead. Early, we were firing on all cylinders.”

Pitts, the head coach, also was the defensive coordinator. Gubera was the offensive coordinator. Pitts and Gubera, in high school football, are head coaches at Parsons and McAuley Catholic, respectively.

Matt Rice’s 77-yard return of the second-half kickoff and Kenny Ray Session Jr.’s conversion run gave the Crusaders their 28-8 advantage.

Said Gubera: “We turned the ball over a couple of times in the second half and we were inconsistent, Maybe, we get a little complacent.

“Our guys played so hard,” Gubera said. “They represented the city of Joplin and the Central Football League very well. The Eagles were a pretty good ballclub.”

Continued Pitts: “We left it all on the field. We played well. We played hard. Our guys were able to walk off the field with their heads high. They played a heck of a game. We dominated that first half. We were physical. We hit them and hit them.

“The Eagles basically were an all-star team. Their players told us that on the field.

“They were huge, athletic guys,” Pitts said. “They were deeper. That depth may have been the difference in the game. They brought in new bodies after new bodies. Some of their players weren’t only big. They also were very fast.”

The Eagles scored two touchdowns after Rice’s heroics to trail 28-24.

Session’s 18-yard run and Jason Bromley’s conversion kick gave Joplin a 35-24 lead early in the final period, Gubera said.

But the Eagles came back behind their passing game. They used the scoring pass and conversion pass two times to prevail. The winning 17-yard strike came with 1:10 left in the game.

The Crusaders’ final play — the pass was incomplete — came with three seconds left from the Eagle 10.

“That was impressive on our part,” Gubera said of the futile drive. “It put us in position to have a chance to win the game.”

The Joplin TDs in the first quarter came on Matt Thompson passes covering 5 and 18 yards to Sam Sturgis and Daniel Thompson, respectively. Bromley added the extra points.

“The Thompsons (from Carl Junction) are brothers and that may have been Matt’s best game with the Crusaders,” Gubera said.

Session’s 32-yard TD run and conversion run in the second period made it 20-8 at the half.

Matt Thompson completed 13 of 17 passes for 169 yards. He also carried six times for 63 yards. Daniel Thompson had five catches for 44 yards and also had three carries for 35 yards.

Session rushed 13 times for 108 yards. Also, Chris Turner caught four passes for 35 yards.

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