After having been playing every Friday since late August, it all has been leading up to a game with the Goddard Lions, coached by Tommy Beason. The Lions, like the Crusaders, are also 8-2 for the season. The only stumbling blocks the Lions have encountered were when they played Maize and Maize South. The rest of their season consisted of wins over Wichita East, Arkansas City, Central of Andover, Eisenhower (Goddard), Valley Center, Andover, Circle (Towanda).
Now the Wellington Crusaders will have their turn on the field.
Just this past week, the Wellington Crusaders vanquished the Buhler Crusaders. Their game consisted of a 7-7 stalemate for most of the game. It was not until the literal last minute before Wellington was able to break away and score their game-winning touchdown.
Friday night, though, was going to be an endurance test, both for the fans as well as the people out on the field. It seemed the price one paid for having made it this far in the season was to still be playing when it was barely thirty degrees outside. Still, with this being a high-profile game, people were pumped up with energy and excitement, and made do.
It was 27 degrees, and it felt like 16, when the game started, and the cold was going to make it rough on everyone.
Wellington quickly gained some yards due to a face mask penalty on Goddard. Grey Hatfield quickly began charging through the Goddard line, gaining to the 33 yard line against Goddard within the first few minutes of the game. It was looking good for the Crusaders until Goddard was able to intercept it with the Crusaders stalling on that possession.
Goddard’s luck did not last until Zane Cornejo was able to recover it on a Goddard fumble. The Crusaders then took it to the next level with their first touchdown, thanks to De’Andre Washington, with 7:36 remaining in the first quarter. Unfortunately, the kick was not as successful, with the score at 6-0.
The Crusaders then were successful with another recovery of a Goddard fumble, thanks to Silas Popplewell.
With five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Crusader punt team took to the field, kicking it to the 20 yard line.
The cold was clearly affecting both teams as they were fighting hard, but also struggling to keep control of the ball. The end of the first quarter brought the score unchanged at 6-0.
It was Hatfield again who was charging through the line and gaining more yards for the Crusaders. Through all kinds of weather, it seemed, Hatfield was a force to be reckoned with.
Hatfield was able to make quite a run to the Goddard 25 yard line near the end of the first half before he was finally brought down. Things were looking really good for another pending touchdown for the Crusaders before the end of the first half. De’Andre Washington came in again for yet another touchdown. The Crusaders attempted a two-point conversion, with Hunter Greenlee making it so. With 43 seconds left in the first half, the Crusaders were walking tall, if a bit frozen.
With a short time remaining, Goddard was going to try hard to get on the board with some momentum. Time was not on their side, however, and they just could not get through the Crusader defense.
Coming back out onto the field for the second half, it was a wee bit colder, but the players still had two more quarters to go. Even with the cold, there was quite a crowd on both sides of the field. There was Crusader red and Goddard blue.
Goddard got a good kick-off at the beginning of the 3rd quarter, putting Wellington on defense. It took only twenty seconds for Goddard to get its first touchdown, plus the extra point. It put Wellington back on their heels with their lead now cut in half of 14-7.
Goddard quickly found a hole in Wellington’s defense and made it all the way to their five yard line. They then scored their second touchdown, with the extra point successful. It was now a tied ballgame at 14-14.
Whatever was said to the Goddard Lions during halftime seemed to have made a huge difference as they clearly had a fire in their bellies now that was not quite there before.
Unbelievably, the Lions then scored a third touchdown, making it 21-14, with just a little over two minutes remaining in the third quarter. With the end of the third quarter, it was very clear that was when the Goddard Lions had truly arrived.
With the start of the fourth quarter, it was clear it was crunch time for the Crusaders. The Lions had come back in a big way, dominating the prior quarter. This could still be the Crusaders’ game. They just needed to stop the Lions.
That was going to be easier said than done as the Lions struck again to make their fourth touchdown of the second half. The score now stood at 28-14.
The Lions knew at this stage they had this game. All they had to do was wear the clock down and keep Wellington from scoring.
The Crusaders fought hard the second half, but they just could not put anything more past the reinvigorated Lions.
The Crusaders had a memorable season. From their surprising victory over long-time foe Wichita Collegiate, it was clear the Crusaders were raising the bar this season. They went on a multi-game winning streak that ended with a heartbreaker of a loss against Mulvane.
The Goddard Lions go on to play McPherson next week. Congratulations to the Wellington Crusaders for a memorable season--one they all should be very proud of.