The Lutheran Crusaders have been on an incredible four-year run in football, but they don’t have much to show for it in the postseason due in part to some bad breaks.
Now after putting together the most dominant regular season in Stateline football history will this finally be the Crusaders year?
“This is what we’ve been preparing for,” says head coach Bruce Bazsali.
“We’re ready for the playoffs,” says linebacker Matt Anderson. “We want to make a deep run. This is what our goal was.”
“We’re ready to go,” says linebacker Logan Davis. “We’re like a train. We’re just not going to stop.”
The Crusaders were a runaway train during the regular season. No team came within 36 points of them. But in recent years the playoffs have been filled with heartbreak.
In 2012 a strong Crusader team lost in the second round in class 2A to Aledo Mercer County. Star quarterback Jake Milborn sprained an ankle in the first quarter and star receiver Tarence Roby sat out with a dislocated elbow.
In 2013 the Crusaders lost in the 4A semifinals at Geneseo. Quarterback Kendall Lawson suffered a concussion and James Robinson battled through a sprained ankle and leg cramps the entire game.
Last year, was the biggest heartbreak of all. A one point loss in the 4A quarterfinals to Chicago Phillips when the Crusaders missed an extra point attempt with a minute and a half to play. The Crusaders think of those losses often.
“Before every game honestly,” says Davis. “I know other people think about when Phillips happened and when Geneseo happened those shouldn’t have happened.”
Maybe that explains why this team has had such a strong work ethic going back to the summer.
“This year our kids worked so hard that we could have played a game two weeks before the season started. I actually gave them some time off,” says Bazsali.
The sting of past playoff losses might also explain why this team has been so focused all season…never taking a week off, always ready to play.
“Our kids are definitely in a frame of mind that focuses on who we’re playing at that time and not what happened before, or what’s going to happen after,” says Bazsali.
Based on it’s enrollment Lutheran should be competing in Class 2A, but because of the private school multiplier the Crusaders have to play the bigger schools in 4A. Those schools have bigger players and deeper rosters, and that’s part of the reason why the Crusaders have gotten banged up in the playoffs.
“Attrition is a big part of the playoffs, and we get nicked and dinged up, and here we’re playing these better teams at the end when we’re probably at our worst,” says Bazsali.
This year the Crusaders trained for a 14 game season. They have more depth than they’ve had in the past. They have other weapons to go with Robinson on offense, and their defense is by far the best it’s ever been.
“We’re fully confident,” says Anderson. “I think everybody is that this team can go deep and we can make another run at the playoffs.”
“We want to see how good we can be,” says Davis.
Lutheran will host Dixon in its first playoff game Friday night. The location of the game has been moved to Harlem High School to be played on the turf due to muddy field conditions at Lutheran.