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Oklahoma City scored a big win on the weekend by taking down the only unbeaten team in the Red River Conference – HURT. With the way the Red River’s DII competition breaks down, the winners of the three divisions (North, South and DI-B) get into the semifinals, and there’s one wildcard spot.
The Crusaders, 5-1, were in second place in the North and in danger of falling behind in the wildcard race, but a 28-15 victory over HURT Saturday propelled them into first.
“It was a fantastic contest – two giants battling is what I saw. The backline was real strong for HURT. [Their scrumhalf] was quite a weapon to deal with, but at the end of the day our defense was stronger,” said Crusaders coach Anthony Pons.
“We gave up a lot of ground that a coach wouldn’t like to see as far as territory. We’d be inside the five and lose the ball and they’d go all the way back down to the other 22 and we’d stay down there too long, but we kept them out of the end zone.”
HURT matched OKC’s three tries on the day, but it was the boot of fullback John White that was the difference. White slotted three penalties and two conversions to give the Crusaders the win.
The Crusaders are in just their second season in DII. Last year, they finished 4-6. Now they’re getting back to winning ways.
“A lot of it is they’re playing together for each other more than they ever did,” said Pons of his charges. “They’ve been playing together for about five years now.”
OKC has a strong military influence, with several members of the Air Force playing big roles. One of them is Cobb Brandon, a former AFA Zoomie and current All Air Force 7s player.
“He’s coming into his own,” said Pons of Brandon. “Great, great athlete. Strong, strong runner. Nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.”
The Crusaders lead Little Rock, the only team to beat them so far this season, by three points in the North. But OKC has played an extra game, so a lot hinges on the April 12 rematch in Little Rock. The Stormers won the first meeting 29-8.
“We beat ourselves more than they beat us, in my opinion. They’re certainly a fabulous team. They’re amazing,” said Pons of the Stormers.
“I’ve known Little Rock for 28 years, and they got a great program. There’s nothing to say but good things about everybody that’s over there. I’m not being cocky to say that I think we’re going to win. We taste it.”