At the end of a long day, UMHB Crusader head football coach Pete Fredenburg put things in perfect perspective.
We want to win with class, he said.
And although losing a football game is not his preference, when it happens, like on Saturday, UMHB will lose with class.
In front of a national television audience, the Crusaders played with class. Oh, they got medieval out on their home football field at times — clean hits, pulverizing blocks — but, always, everything was done with class.
And you can start with Fredenburg.
Arguably his top player, defensive lineman Silvio Diaz, had violated a team rule. So Fredenburg suspended him for Saturday’s Final Four contest.
What rule did he break?
It’s none of our business, and Fredenburg didn’t say what rule was violated. Fredenburg is way too classy a person to embarrass a player of his.
But how many NCAA head football coaches can you think of that would sit down a star player in the biggest game of the season for violating a team rule?
You drawing a blank there? Me, too.
Heck, most NCAA head coaches would try and find a way to finagle out of having a top player disciplined at such a crucial point of the season.
But that’s not the Fredenburg way — he’s a first-class teacher to young men and a first-class football coach.
And here’s the beautiful thing: the UMHB defense, sans Diaz, took the field on Saturday and played a fantastic football game. Wisconsin-Whitewater entered this contest averaging 37 points and 402 yards. Thanks to some brilliant scheming by Cru defensive coordinator Larry Harmon, excellent coverage in the secondary, superb play from the linebackers and some extraordinary work by the defensive linemen, the Warhawks were held to just 16 points and 294 total yards.
If you follow UMHB football, you may have heard all week how the defensive front four of Whitewater was the greatest line since the Fearsome Foursome of Olsen, Jones, Lundy and Grier. It was pointed out by members of the press in Wisconsin that this line of Whitewater was so quick, so spectacular, so dominating that blitzing was unnecessary.
I got sick of hearing about this Whitewater defensive line.
So, apparently, did Crusader Josh Holt, the outstanding left guard who earned first-team all conference and first-team South Region honors.
With 8:30 left in the first quarter, on a called run to Cru halfback Elijah Hudson, Holt pancaked Warhawk 6-foot, 263-pound defensive tackle Zach Franz; and Hudson followed Holt’s block and scampered 19 yards for a first down. The drive — and that block — helped UMHB take a 3-0 early lead.
Then Holt gave an encore performance. Later in the quarter, Holt pancaked Warhawk noseguard Brandon Tamsett (6-1, 255) and, again, Hudson used that block to gain 18 yards and another first down.
Hudson is a senior and on Saturday, his final contest, he rushed through this highly touted defense for 106 yards. His tenacity, toughness and consistency will be sorely missed by the Cru faithful. And so will the class in which he always conducts himself. He’s a guy that after a big touchdown run makes a point to find offensive linemen and thank them.
On Saturday, that O-line, led by Holt, played very solid football. The Whitewater defense entered this contest only yielding 67.5 yards rushing per game.
Thanks in part to Holt, tackles Montana Duncan and Jose Ostos, guard Kendrick Booker and center Sterling Cantue, UMHB gained 188 yards rushing against the Warhawks.
On Saturday, Whitewater’s defensive line was the second best defensive line to show up at Crusader Stadium. Crusader D-linemen Korey Steward, Lamar Seels and Michael Johnson were superb in rushing the passer and stopping the run. The play of Crusader freshman defensive end Teidrick Smith brought to mind Bubba Smith, Richard Dent and Michael Strahan. Teidrick Smith was not to be contained.
The UMHB linebackers — in particular, Baylor Mullins, Andy McAteer and Deshon Kinsey — played like champions. Kinsey had 12 tackles and McAteer 10.
The Cru secondary, led by the incomparable Brodrick Crain, made strong hits, clutch tackles and covered well. As per usual, defensive backs Cody Jones, Eric Allen and Derek Williamson were stellar.
You ever hear that saying, “No cheering from the pressbox?”
The heck with that. You bet I cheered. It’s impossible to follow this football program and not be inspired by it.
So thank you Duncan, Holt, Hudson, Steward, McAteer, Crain, Jones, Williamson and the rest of your fellow seniors for a fantastic football season. You will be missed, and you will not be forgotten.
You played your butts off on Saturday and a raucous, large home crowd appreciated your efforts and a national television audience got to see again what UMHB football is about — playing with purpose, conviction and class.