As a lifelong aficionado of defensive dominance, Cal Lee wasn’t altogether dissatisfied.
A 56-50 win by his Saint Louis Crusaders over Los Angeles powerhouse Narbonne – winner of seven City league titles in 15 seasons — was a demonstration of superb run defense: 80 rushing yards on 26 carries (3 yards per attempt). Saint Louis’ normally air-tight defense wasn’t so tight elsewhere. Gauchos quarterback Jalen Chatman passed for 517 yards and five TDs.
“We sure didn’t play much pass defense. I think a win is a win even though it’s ugly. It kind of tells you what you’ve got to do to get better. It’s good to find out and work on it,” Lee said. “This kind of wakes us up.”
To be fair, when Saint Louis rallied to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the defensive unit locked down for a stretch and limited Chatman to 3-for-9 passing during that spell. Still, Lee, like most everyone involved with the Crusaders football program, has heard plenty of chatter about his top-ranked team. He’s not sure he wants to hear any more.
“People think we’re just going to show up and win. Our season is halfway there and every team we’re going to play is going to be ready to battle,” he said. “You know how kids are sometimes. I’m not saying we took Narbonne lightly, but sometimes you need a wake-up call.”
That never seemed to be the case for Saint Louis, which was severely tested by Chatman’s field vision and the explosiveness of Jermar Jefferson, who looked like a young Marshall Faulk at times. Down 37-21 early in the third quarter, the Crusaders never wilted.
“No matter what, we talk about playing four quarters. It doesn’t matter if you’re up or behind. The game never ends at the half. You’ve got to keep battling,” Lee said. “That was a good football team and they gave us a good challenge. It could’ve gone either way, so we’re happy that we won.”
The late-game heroics of quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (393 yards, seven TD passes) and wide receiver Mitchell Quinn (seven receptions, 232 yards, four TDs) were part of the big turnaround. Cordeiro ran for some crucial first downs, as he has all season.
“Chevan is showing me what I already know. The guy is a competitor. I know he didn’t play much last year, but I know what’s in him, what’s in his veins. He plays hard no matter if it’s practice or a game,” Lee said. “I have so much confidence in him with the ball, that he’ll make the right decisions, and that comes from him naturally. He’s doing a real good job directing the offense.”