By Leo Niksic ‘24

The Crusaders entered their final game with their playoff hopes on the line as the (4-4) Brother Rice Crusaders took on the (5-3) St. Rita Mustangs. On this particular game it was “Dad’s Day” and the fathers/grandfathers went to chapel with the team.  As the fathers stood next to the players while the National Anthem was sung, the team could feel the energy in the air. In this CCL Blue matchup, it was a packed house at Tom Mitchell Field, and the Crusader Crazies were getting rowdy as kickoff was underway.

St. Rita deferred, so the Crusaders got the ball first. They took no time to get the run game started, and pounded the ball all the way down for six. The Crusaders defense capitalized on the momentum of the offense, and on the first drive, and senior Jake Duggar got his second interception of the year. This was a meaningful interception, as Jake was battling a broken collarbone, but didn’t let it affect him as he played for his team.

The Crusaders offense dominated the first quarter. Going into the second quarter, the score was 17-0, Brother Rice. St. Rita was not going down without a fight as they connected on several deep balls, which put them in scoring position. St. Rita finally ended with a run for their first touchdown of the night.

Rice’s offense was still moving the ball, however they could not find the end zone and settled for a field goal. The defense held their own, but with careless penalties coming on third downs, St. Rita’s drive continued. Then with time running out in the half St. Rita connected on a huge deep ball for a touchdown.

At halftime, the score was 20-16. The Crusaders had to come out and take care of business or their season would be over. The defense started hot with a couple stop and added another interception, but it wasn’t enough. Rita still found a way to find the endzone and made the score 21-20, St. Rita. Then a punt was muffed, and the returner was laid out by junior Connor Stack. It was Rice’s ball! That was the turning point of the game, and the Crusaders went on to score 21 points unanswered.

Brother Rice won the game 42-21 as they bumped St. Rita down to last place in the CCL Blue.

Senior kicker Ronan Culkin said, “The defense and offense did their jobs; I was just put in the right spot and executed my job just how I practiced it.”

Key player from Friday night’s game, safety Jake Duggar said, “The atmosphere was amazing. It was my first game back from injury, and I’m happy we were able to come out and get a huge win over a mediocre school.”

Senior wide receiver Dylan McDonald said, “I love being a Crusader.  Everything about that night was amazing. The fans were into it; the game was amazing; and we executed the game plan perfectly.”