From the very start, it was clear that Brother Rice wanted to show just how much toughness and determination their team possesses. However, despite their best efforts, they still could not manage a victory against the Caravan of Mount Carmel. As a result, the Crusaders will now enter the Prep Bowl championship playoffs next week.
For the first half of the game, it was the Caravan who were unsure of themselves as they were outplayed by a revitalized Brother Rice squad. Defensive lineman Brian Craft set the tone on the first play of the game, sacking Carmel quarterback Don Butkus and igniting his team. A quick punt gave QB Matt Page and the Crusaders the ball in Caravan territory.
Turning defensemen's heads left and right were Page and sophomore running back Marcus Jones, as the Crusaders drove downfield. Page then took it himself for a short rushing touchdown, as the Crusaders grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Despite a muffed punt by Jones on Carmel's ensuing possession, the Crusader 'D' refused to back down. Carmel's systematic offense, which had abused Rice in their previous matchup, was experiencing major difficulties at the hands of the Crusaders. Rice continuously pushed the Caravan back, keeping them out of the redzone and forcing a second punt.
The Caravan finally found the endzone at the start of the second half, though it did not come easy. With a 1st down on Rice's ten-yard line, the defense forced fourth down before Butkus rushed one yard for the game-tying score. Despite the unwanted result, Coach Badke could only applaud the effort of his team.
That effort would be key late in the half, as Erich Lieser brought down the punter in the endzone following a mishandled snap. This resulted in a safety and a stunning 9-7 halftime lead for the Crusaders.
Their slight advantage failed to hold up, however, as the Caravan rebounded with a strong second half. After picking up a huge first down on a fake punt, Butkus connected with receiver Jason Gasser for a 24-yard touchdown. Following their two-point conversion, the Caravan took their first lead, 15-9.
Despite failing to score in the second half, the Crusader offense performed well and, had a few more plays gone their way, may have been able to pull off the upset. One of those plays occurred mid-3rd quarter, as Rice faced a fourth down and 12 just outside of the redzone. Page scrambled, then miraculously found Marcus Jones in the endzone for the score and the possible lead. However, a holding penalty against the Crusaders erased the score and Rice was forced to punt.
Carmel prepared to extend their lead and put more pressure on the Crusaders. The defense made perhaps its biggest mistake of the game as Butkus and Gasser hooked up again, this time for a 58-yard gain. Running back Matt Domer, who hurt the Crusaders in their previous battle, concluded the possession with a four-yard rush TD. After Butkus converted another two-point conversion, the Caravan's lead grew to 23-9. The Crusaders were running out of time.
With an eight-minute offensive possession in the fourth quarter, the Caravan sealed their first-round playoff victory. Running back Draco Smith added the finishing touch with a one-yard TD rush, as Mount Carmel triumphed, 30-9.
It was a tough game for the Crusaders, but at the same time they played with as much heart and desire as they have all season. Though Coach Badke and the rest of his team feels that they should have won this game, the Crusaders know they have another week of football ahead of them, something they will definitely take full advantage of.