OPELOUSAS — Travis Blaize expressed thankfulness afterwards.
Westminster Christian Academy’s first-year head football coach walked off the field on Senior Night having witnessed his football team open up District 5-1A play with a convincing 62-30 victory over North Central, and improve the Crusaders’ season record to 6-0.
It is the program’s first six-game winning streak since the Crusaders won seven in a row to end the 2011 regular season.
“I am in a true state of appreciation,” Blaize said. “Appreciation for the hard work my assistant coaches put in, all of the people that have believed in us up to this point, the people behind the scenes that don’t get enough credit for all they do. I told our community thank you and reminded the boys how proud of them I am that they stayed the course since the moment I showed up on campus in late April.”
WCA stayed the course Friday after finding themselves down right off the bat.
North Central scored on the opening kickoff as senior Reginald Stoner took the kickoff back 74 yards for a touchdown. The Hurricanes converted the two-point conversion and led 8-0.
“We haven’t done a great job on special teams this year,” North Central first-year coach Jacob Carruth said. “That return was just Reginald Stoner showing off his natural athleticism. We gave up a couple onside kicks last week, so we kept nine guys up front to make sure that didn’t happen again. Reggie did a great job getting us going there.”
“All week we tried to tell our players that this game was not going to be easy and that their coach was going to have them playing hard,” Blaize said. “The best part was the kids came to the sideline and said ‘let’s go 1-0 the next play.'”
WCA would win more than just the next play as the Crusaders outscored the Hurricanes 49-0 during the rest of the first half.
After a few lengthy runs by fullback Bryant Moore, WCA (6-0, 1-0) capped their first offensive possession with a three-yard touchdown run by Josh Cassimere.
That would be followed with Gage Barton (one of five seniors honored before the game) throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Randell. A few moments later, Barton found Randell again, this time for a two-yard touchdown.
WCA’s special teams proceeded to get in on the scoring action as Joshua Brown recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and ran it in for a touchdown.
Barton then threw his third touchdown of the half as he found Colby Lejeune for a 12-yard score in the first quarter. The Crusaders would add a one-yard touchdown run by Landon Foster and a 30-yard touchdown run by Moore in the second quarter.
At the break, WCA led 49-8.
“We make it a priority to be balanced and spread the ball out to different guys,” Blaize said. “I was very proud of our offensive line for creating huge run lanes and our quarterback came out razor sharp. It allowed us to respond and get off to a fast start without looking back.”
“We need to be more consistent and tackle better,” Carruth said. “That’s something we’ve been working on, but obviously we aren’t quite there yet. We had some chances to get off the field on those drives with them having third and long a few times, but we weren’t able to get the job done. Credit to Coach Blaize and those guys at WCA for executing in tough spots.”
To their credit, North Central (0-6, 0-1) didn’t roll over in the second half. The Hurricanes kept fighting and put together three touchdown drives in the final two quarters.
Stoner scooped up a fumble by Barton and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, and later scored on a 73-yard touchdown reception. Stoner also had a two-point conversion run and an interception.
“I am extremely proud of them,” said Carruth, who’s team has now lost 21 straight games. “Our guys do a great job of fighting through adversity. Even though we haven’t gotten the results we want so far this year, they have never given up. They have bought into the program and the mentality has changed. We just have to get to the point where we aren’t hurting ourselves and we play consistently through four quarters.”
“It was extremely frustrating,” Blaize said of the second half. “It’s a combination of them not quitting and us not having enough depth to put back ups in so we have guys out of position just to get out of a ball game. We have a lot of learning to do even at this point of the season and that includes learning how to win big.”
WCA did manage to win big as the Crusaders kept the comfortable lead throughout the second half by scoring a touchdown in each quarter. Barton found Tyler Dejean for a nine-yard touchdown in the third and then a one-yard touchdown run by Seth Woods in the fourth.
Barton completed 14-of-17 passes for 222 yards and four scores but the offense was led by the rushing attack which piled up 228 yards on the ground. Moore led all rushers with 187 yards on only 11 carries.
“Well he was a full back last year but he’s a true three-down running back,” Blaize said of Moore. “He worked to really improve this off-season on his catching so we never have to take him out. He brings it all, leadership, hard nose running, vision, and a good set of hands. He just finds a way to get into the endzone even when people try to take him away.”
With the victory, WCA improved to 6-0 on the season which secured the program’s first winning regular season since 2016 when the team went 7-3, won the district championship and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
Yet, some have doubted how good WCA is because of the strength of schedule. Blaize made sure his team blocks out that noise.
“I told our boys that I don’t care what anyone says about our schedule because winning is not easy,” said Blaize, who’s team plays Sacred Heart next. “They deserve to relish in the fact that no matter what happens they will have a winning season, the first one in a long time.”