Make no mistake, NCAA Division III tournament games are a different ball game.
One penalty, missed assignment and mistake can mean the difference between another opportunity to play the next week and the dreaded day when players put away their equipment for the year.
And Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders senior cornerback Brodrick Crain wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Everybody fights for survival,” Crain said. “A lot of times in the playoffs teams are going to throw their best plays at you so you might see something in the game that you had no idea about.”
Crain and the Crusaders (11-0) look to survive one more week when they take on Rowan University (9-2) at noon Saturday at Crusader Stadium.
The winner of that game advances to the national quarterfinals against either Hobart or St. John Fisher.
Crain has been enjoying a storybook season during his final few months in a Crusader uniform.
The 2013 season was one UMHB fans looked forward to with the opening of Crusader Stadium and the team’s play on the field has lived up to the hype.
UMHB wrapped up its fourth consecutive perfect regular season and took home another undisputed American Southwest Conference championship.
Crain established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the ASC along the way, but the former Belton standout entered this season chasing just one honor.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to play for the No. 2 school in the nation and be called one of the best corners in the conference, but I don’t want to get too excited about that,” Crain said. “The main goal is to win that national championship.”
Crain joined the UMHB football program in 2010, but success didn’t come instantly.
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Crain spent his freshman season on the JV team and spent many cold days working out in the offseason in order to improve and get ready to take the next step.
“I like to look at that as a redshirt year,” Crain said. “It gave me a chance to learn the defense and get ready to play with the big boys.
His hard work paid off in 2011 when Crain started 11 games and appeared in all 13 as a cornerback. Crain was named to the all-conference second team as a junior in 2012.
Through 11 games this season, Crain has intercepted four passes, is averaging more than 12 yards per return and has 14 pass breakups.
“It’s great to be a part of one of 16 (teams) in the whole country,” Crain said.
For UMHB defensive coordinator Larry Harmon, the change in Crain has not been a solely physical one.
Harmon said that Crain was the best athlete he’s coached in the 12 years that he’s been at UMHB and the Crusaders’ defensive scheme calls for Crain to play man-to-man coverage often.
“He’s not a real vocal guy, but he is when he has to be,” Harmon said. “He’s one of those guys that as soon as he talks, everybody listens.”