The Crusaders are back in the state playoffs, winning their regular season finale against Leo 44-12 on Friday evening. They now own an overall record of 5-4 and will likely face tough competition in the early rounds of the playoffs, which begin next week.
Returning to the field of St. Xavier for the first time since he became the head coach of Brother Rice football, Brian Badke could not have been disappointed with his team’s effort and execution. Less than a week after being shutout against top-ranked Loyola, the Crusader offense exploded for all of the team’s 44 points in the first half.
It took a mere 12 seconds before Rice got on the board, as junior Chris Rozell returned the opening kickoff 85 yards into the endzone. Displaying his relentless approach to coaching, Badke was not satisfied, yelling to his team, “We need to score every time we have the ball!”
For the most part in the first half, the Crusaders responded to their leader’s challenge. After a field goal on their next possession, quarterback Matt Page led them downfield with a combination of pass and run attacks. A 52-yard reception by Brendan McGinley set up a four-yard touchdown catch for junior Luke Mueller and a 17-0 Crusader lead after one quarter.
Page continued his domination of the half with Leo unable to slow him down. He not only contributed two rushing TDs of his own, but also connected twice more with his receivers for scores. First, it was senior Malik Moody who reeled in a well-thrown ball then rushed to the endzone. Then, it was McGinley, who miraculously jumped over his defender for the grab and score as time expired in the first half. With a 44-6 halftime lead, the Crusaders knew they were well on their way to another playoff berth.
While the offense finally got its motor running again, the defense did not miss a beat. Senior Brian Craft set the tone with two early sacks, and Leo faced constant pressure the rest of the night. In the first half alone, the Crusader “D” forced two turnovers on downs and three punts, while allowing one score. In the second half, Rice stayed aggressive, as junior Erich Lieser and senior Dan Johnson both intercepted Leo passes.
Though it is still yet to be determined who Rice will face in the first round, it’s clear that Coach Badke and his team will be as prepared as possible to battle against their opponent. Like most other teams, the Crusaders experienced numerous highs and lows throughout the regular season. However, they know that their attitude, determination, and teamwork were and will be the reason behind their successes and triumphs. The Crusaders have made it this far, so who’s to say their journey has to end anytime soon.