his past Saturday the Archbishop Stepinac Crusaders took to the gridiron to open the 2011 season and beat the Middletown High School Middies 41-20 picking up their 13th straight victory. The Crusaders are coming off their best year in school history going 12-0 in 2010 and there were a lot of questions heading into the game against the Middies.
How will this team compare to the 2010 team? Will the Crusaders miss two of their talented players from last season Tyrell Goodman and Donnie Simmons who are now playing Division I College Football? How will the two junior quarterbacks Mark White and Daniel Hoffer handle running the spread offense?
As New York Sports fans we have been very lucky to witness some special championship seasons in several different sports. When you look back at the last 25 years in New York Sports you think of great championship teams like the 1998 Yankees, 1986 Mets, 1994 Rangers and the 1987 Giants just to name a few.
What is very challenging for championships teams is the next season and trying to repeat and live up to expectations from the prior season. Its nearly impossible to do. Only the Yankees who went on to be repeat championships seasons in their sport.
In sports its easy to get caught looking backwards or forwards instead of concentrating on the present. The Crusaders could not and did not rely on last year’s championship season on Saturday night. They knew the Middies weren’t going to give them anything for free.
Very early on in Saturday night’s game against the Middies made a quick run on the Crusaders and took a 7-0 lead. The Crusaders were having a few troubles with some fundamentals which led to a couple mistakes. Watching the first several minutes of the game the Middies looked like they were going to be able to build a double-digit lead over the Crusaders, but that didn’t happen.
The Crusaders mid way through the first quarter put it together and things started to go in the right direction. The defense got tough and the Crusaders began to execute their spread offense very well. They were able to score 21 points in the first quarter. That is called resiliency and its a characteristic of strong individuals who come together to form a solid team.
This is a great testament to the Crusaders coaching staff for preparing their players to begin the season and the team captains Caleb Gilligan-Evans, Vincent Narog, Nick Shaw, Austin Taps and Ryan Wasylenko for leading the team in the right direction at all times. Even when the team was up several touchdowns in the second half head coach Mike O’Donnell and his assistants coaches never stopped working and teaching. When a player came off the field he was greeted by a teammate or coach to pat him on the back or explain something about the last play. The Crusaders look like a team that is very close and supports one another.
Last season was very special for the Crusaders. It may or may not be done again but you have to let last year’s results remain on their own and not be linked to the 2011 season or team.
This group of young men will make their own mark on history and get to experience moments and make memories that could last a lifetime for them. They took a nice first step on Saturday by staying in the present and trying to improve on their mistakes. They know there are tough teams ahead that will challenge them but if they stay and play in the present it looks the Crusaders can be a success team and very entertaining to follow.
Gerken is a Westchester County native and has published previously with The Patent Trader and the Bronxville Review Press. While attending Boston College he was the sports editor of the university’s newspaper, The Heights, and served as a staff writer for the Boston College sports publication Eagle Action. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org