It was halftime at Belton’s Crusader Stadium on Saturday night.
Then-ranked No. 5 in America, the Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders were in the locker room after 30 minutes of action against then-ranked No. 3 Linfield College, of Oregon.
“We were ahead by only four points (24-20),” recalled UMHB starting left tackle Corbin Campitelli. “And I was thinking, ‘We must come out strong in the second half.’”
Campitelli, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound junior, was also thinking about his head coach, Pete Fredenburg.
“You want to win this game for your teammates and our fans, sure,” Campitelli said. “But you also want to win it for Coach. I was thinking that we needed to win this game for Coach, especially for what he’s done for this town, this program and this team of ours.”
In the first half, Campitelli and his fellow offensive linemen had yielded no sacks while helping the Cru gain 374 yards on 50 scrimmage plays, an always-acceptable 7.4 per play.
“I did think it was a good first half for us,” Campitelli said. “But I knew the real test would be in the second half. Last year, we had a rough second half against Linfield.”
On Dec. 5 at Linfield, the Cru led the Wildcats 28-14 at halftime in the NCAA 2015 Division III Quarterfinals, only to fall 38-35 on a last-second field goal.
“This time,” said Campitelli, “we were determined to play a great second half. And things started out great immediately when Bryce (Wilkerson) returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.”
And UMHB never looked back.
Completely dominating play, the Cru scored five more touchdowns in the second half, winning 66-27 — earning one of the biggest victories in UMHB’s 19-year football history.
“The happiest I’ve ever seen Coach was after this game,” Campitelli said. “I saw a sense of happiness and relief. We’ve been chasing Linfield ever since 2004.”
Linfield defeated UMHB in the 2004 national championship contest, and beat the Cru three more times in their three playoff contests.
Linfield was the big bug on the wall that Fredenburg and the Cru wanted to swat.
“Coach Fred talks about a 24-hour rule,” Campitelli said. “You get 24 hours to celebrate a win. And you’d have 24 hours to dwell on a loss — although thankfully that doesn’t happen too often — and think about how you can improve.
“This week we have a bye, and it’s really coming at a good time. This week, we’re still running a bit on high from the big win but, at the same time, we are staying focused on getting better.”
Campitelli is the vocal leader of the Crusaders’ relatively young O-line.
On Saturday, freshman DeJuan Ramirez was at right tackle, sophomore Colton Hall played center and sophomore Justin Brister manned left tackle. Senior All-American Broderick Jenkins was at right guard.
“With our younger linemen, I just told them, ‘It’s just football,’ and that they’ve been playing this game a long time,” Campitelli said. “Against Linfield, I didn’t want us to get too high or be too low as a line, just stay on an even keel.”
UMHB (3-0) ended the contest with 552 yards of total offense (7.7 yards per play).
“It was a great night,” Campitelli said. “You could feel the energy on the sideline before the game — our fans were great.
“And now it’s time for all of us to get better in this bye week and get ourselves prepared for McMurry.”
The McMurry War Hawks (1-1), an American Southwest Conference mate, visit the No. 3-ranked Crusaders on Saturday, Oct. 1.
“Our goal is go undefeated in our conference and we know we have a few more ranked teams on our schedule,” Campitelli said.
“But it’s also important to remember this: We can’t win the national championship this week. We must take care of business this week, get better — and be prepared for McMurry.”
Contact Allan Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com