BELTON Fans have come to expect great things from Mary Hardin-Baylor's football team.
The Cru just hope to be a better team with better players every week, regardless of who they are lining up against because of what is on the line.
"That's been my call for our guys since we started these last three weeks is that I don't care who we're playing, we've got to be a better football team," Mary Hardin-Baylor head coach Pete Fredenburg said. "If we're going to achieve the goals that we want to reach, we've got to beat really good teams down the road."
The fourth-ranked Cru won at least a share of their ninth American Southwest Conference title in 10 years and eighth straight postseason berth by dismantling Sul Ross State 77-13 in their regular season home finale on Saturday.
The Cru (9-0, 7-0 ASC) look to close out their third 10-0 regular season in school history and clinch their seventh outright ASC title on Saturday they shared the title in 2003 and 2009 against Texas Lutheran in Seguin. On Sunday, they will find out their NCAA Division III playoffs first-round opponent at 5 p.m.
Despite beating the Bulldogs 81-3 last season, Fredenburg said the focus for Saturday's game is take care of business and get better in the process.
"We've got to be a better football player than we were six weeks ago," he said. "I want and expect our guys to come every Tuesday with high energy, want to learn how to defeat TLU, but also how they can get better as a football player."
After building another comfortable lead early, Fredenburg sat his starters for part of the first half and all of the second in the Cru's win over Sul Ross.
With the playoffs nearing, Fredenburg said he will play his starters "as much as we need them" in Mary Hardin-Baylor's regular season finale against Texas Lutheran on Saturday.
"That's a fine line that you walk and it's important that they do (play). The thing that is important to me is that we really go out and execute sharp and crisp and then, hopefully, we'll maintain that when they have to play a full game," Fredenburg said.
Against Howard Payne last week, UMHB pulled its starters with 11:30 left in the first half. Against Sul Ross, the second offense started with 3:38 left in the first half.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 4-3 ASC) have endured their share of struggles, but three former Crusaders are helping Texas Lutheran's turnaround.
Defensive line coach Mark Carey, defensive ends coach/recruiting coordinator Braxton Harris and quarterbacks coach Andy Padron have helped Texas Lutheran to its first non-losing season since 2006 when the Bulldogs went 6-4 overall and 4-4 in ASC play.
"They've had quite an investment into their program and quite a change," Fredenburg said. "They've changed coaches, hired, in my opinion, some really outstanding coaches, that they're going to make a difference, make a significant difference. I think the university has invested into the program as well."
Carey played for Mary Hardin-Baylor from 2002-03, served on Fredenburg's coaching staff from 2004-10 and is in his second year with the Bulldogs. Harris, who played quarterback from 2003-05 and coached receivers and served as UMHB's recruiting coordinator from 2007-09, is in his first season at Seguin.
Padron, son of TLU head coach Danny Padron, also played quarterback for UMHB from 2003-06 and earned the team's Most Unselfish Player award in 2005.