Cru­saders run record to 6-0

Houston Chronicle - - HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL - By Jack Mar­rion III STAFF WRITER jmar­rion@hc­non­line.com twit­ter.com/jack­mar­rion

Strake Je­suit took an un­de­feated record into what could be con­sid­ered the meat of their dis­trict sched­ule, fac­ing three 2017 play­off teams in four weeks. First on the list was de­fend­ing dis­trict cham­pion Hast­ings, Oct. 12 at Crump Sta­dium.

The Cru­saders are still un­beaten.

A few big plays and one of their best de­fen­sive out­ings of the sea­son car­ried a 29-17 vic­tory against a tal­ented Bears squad.

Strake Je­suit im­proved to 6-0 over­all, 3-0 in Dis­trict 23-6A. Hast­ings fell to 4-2 and 2-1. Both have un­beaten Pear­land re­main­ing on the sched­ule.

The Cru­saders passed their first big test. The Oil­ers await Oct. 19 at Clay Sta­dium.

“This is huge,” Strake Je­suit se­nior line­backer An­drew Koenig said. “We worked hard all week. This is the best week of prac­tice we’ve had all year, start­ing last Satur­day. We knew what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. We came out and ex­e­cuted the game plan. Hast­ings is a great team. They’ve got a lot of good play­ers on their team. All the re­spect to them. They gave us a fight. They’re get­ting us ready for Pear­land next week.”

Both teams were stingy on de­fense in the first half, trad­ing four punts to start.

Laython Shaw raced in to shut down a screen pass as part of his ac­tive half on Strake Je­suit’s sec­ond drive. The Bears drove from their own one to mid­field but An­drew Koenig, who had a sack on Hast­ings’ first drive, picked off a fourth-down at­tempt.

Four plays later, Michael Wi­ley found room on the left side and rushed from 24 yards for a 7-0 Cru­saders lead with 1:02 re­main­ing in the quar­ter.

The Bears ap­peared primed to cut into the lead, us­ing a 24-yard catch by Edger­rin Mel­ton and a 31-yard catch by Ter­rence Thomas to set up first and goal at the six. But Strake Je­suit held and the Bears could not con­nect on a fourth-down at­tempt in the end zone.

Hast­ings broke through on its next drive, with Joseph Man­jack haul­ing in a tough catch for a 20-yard touch­down with 5:00 left in the half. It was the only time the Bears’ of­fense reached the end zone. They en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing 35.8 points per game with elu­sive quar­ter­back Javon Wil­liams run­ning the spread.

“It was a lot of just con­tain,” Koenig said. “We knew he could run the ball and ear­lier this sea­son there were quar­ter­backs who would just toast us with their legs. So were try­ing to keep him in the pocket and force him to make bad throws. He made a cou­ple, which helped us a lot.”

Strake Je­suit erased most of the re­main­ing time with its next drive, which in­cluded a 36-yard run by Dy­lan Camp­bell and a fourth­down re­cep­tion by Wil­liam Dick­a­son. An­dre Baud’s 24yard field goal gave the Cru­saders a 10-7 half­time lead.

The Cru­saders, who car­ried a 48.2 scor­ing av­er­age en­ter­ing the game, struck with big plays in the third quar­ter. Camp­bell broke through the line and sped away for a 46-yard touch­down. Their next drive ended when Michael Hansen found Nathaniel Beal in stride on a fly pat­tern for a 43-yard touch­down and a 23-7 lead with 43 se­conds left in the quar­ter.

“It shows our char­ac­ter, if any­thing,” Strake Je­suit se­nior quar­ter­back Michael Hansen said. “We played hard the en­tire game. We didn’t let up. We knew they were go­ing to get some three and outs and some stops. What kind of sets us apart is we’re go­ing to keep go­ing and try a bunch of dif­fer­ent things. We al­ways find some­thing that works and ev­ery­body plays as a team while do­ing that.”

Hast­ings tight­ened the game, with Ja’Corey Ben­jamin tak­ing the en­su­ing kick­off back 97 yards to bring the crowd to its feet. Con­sec­u­tive sacks by Jevon Leon and a skill­ful 33-yard grab by Kollin Jack­son con­tin­ued the mo­men­tum. Though the drive stalled in the red zone, An­thony Quin­tanilla booted a 40yard field goal to bring the Bears within 23-17.

But the Cru­saders had one more big play in them. Hansen eluded a rush­ing de­fender just long enough to loft a pass to­ward Dick­son, who slipped a tackle and scored a 67-yard touch­down to ice vic­tory.

Hast­ings pre­pares for ri­val Alief Tay­lor next week. The Lions im­proved to 2-1 in league play with an 18-14 vic­tory against Ge­orge Ranch.

Strake Je­suit looks to ex­tend its per­fect start to a sea­son that could end up be­ing its best since join­ing the UIL. The Cru­saders were 8-3 with a bi-dis­trict cham­pi­onship last year.

“We’re still heads down and work­ing,” Hansen said. “We know we’ve got a cou­ple big games ahead. But we’re hav­ing a lot of fun. We have an awe­some coach­ing staff, awe­some stu­dent body, ev­ery­one sup­port­ing us. We’re hav­ing a lot of fun do­ing it.”

Craig Mose­ley / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Strake Je­suit quar­ter­back Michael Hansen (12) fires a pass in the fourth quar­ter against Hast­ings at Crump Sta­dium on Fri­day night at Alief.

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