The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 21, 2013

Crusaders resume season on the road

By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer

— The Joplin Crusaders, successful last week in their non-pro Central Football League opener, continue on the road tomorrow night in quest of their second win.

The Crusaders tackle the Northwest Arkansas Battle with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday on the Lincoln High School gridiron. Gates open at 5.

The Battle was formed with the merger of two teams from northwest Arkansas, the Arkansas Warriors, a CFL opponent for Joplin the past several years, and the Arkansas War Cats, Joplin coach Dave Pitts said Thursday.

“Historically, when I think of the Warriors, they’ve featured an outstanding offense with a physical defense,” Pitts said.

But the Battle, yielding two touchdowns in the fourth period, lost 20-6 to the Oklahoma Warriors last Saturday night in the CFL opener for both teams at Lincoln.

The Crusaders, although jumping in front 13-0, needed a late score to prevail 19-15 in a matinee opener against the Northern Oklahoma Ruffnecks at Enid.

Said Ruffneck coach Michael Hilbert in the Ponca City News: “We played a great team as a big underdog and to be able to come back from a 13-0 deficit to take a lead is quite an accomplishment. Though we came up short on the win, I am so proud of the Ruffnecks. The defense played well and kept us in the game. The offense stepped up in the second half. This showed we have a good chance to be in the running for a playoff spot.”

Pitts wasn’t enthralled after watching game film.

“We made a lot of mistakes we normally don’t make,” Pitts said. “We didn’t play very aggressively. We’re known for our physical and aggressive play. We didn’t show it. We’ll get that fixed.

“Two guys were banged up. But they expect to play on Saturday,” Pitts said.

“Concerns this week include the weather and simply getting everyone there for the game,” Pitts said.

Notes: Joplin quarterback Robert Lockett completed 12 of 16 passes for 186 yards against the Ruffnecks. Matt Rice had seven receptions for 116 yards and Heath Baker carried 10 times for 36 yards. ... Joplin vs. the Ruffnecks was the first game of a doubleheader. Defending CFL postseason champion Enid bounced the Oklahoma Force 53-0 in the second contest. ... Joplin visits the Kansas Cougars next week before opening at home at 7 p.m. on April 13 at Fred G. Hughes Stadium against Enid, a 28-21 winner at Joplin in the 2012 finals.