NEW ULM, MN – The Crusader football team was firing on all cylinders Saturday, amassing 580 yards of offense in a game that needed some late-game heroics to determine a 56-54 roller-coaster win over the Martin Luther Knights.
After an opening drive that included three big plays for first downs, junior running back Josiah Brendemuehl (Mishicot, WI) rushed two yards and sophomore quarterback Brandon McCormick (Edwards, IL) capitalized on a pass interference penalty on a two-point conversion, connecting with sophomore receiver Joe Manion (Watertown, WI) for the 8-0 score.
Martin Luther bounced back though with two scores to take a 14-8 lead. Brendemuehl’s second rushing touchdown and Manion’s touchdown reception highlighted the second quarter but the Crusaders still trailed the Knights, 28-20.
Then the fireworks began in a game that would soon be characterized by big lead swings.
After a touchdown that extended Martin Luther’s lead to 34-20, freshman wide receiver Clayton Morrison took a 48-yard kickoff from his own 17-yard line and sprinted 83 yards for the team’s first of three touchdowns in the third quarter alone.
The next score, a rushing touchdown by Clint Saxon (Watertown, WI), was setup by two big pass plays of 15 and 14 yards, and then a pass to Morrison for a 14-yard touchdown with the two point conversion to Manion, swung the pendulum back to Maranatha’s side for a 42-34 lead.
Maranatha built on that lead at the start of the fourth with a touchdown rush by McCormick, and another two-point conversion to junior running back Jordan DeLay (Flint, MI) for the team’s largest lead of the game, 50-34.
But Martin Luther wasn’t content to let a swing of 28 points deter them, as the Knights charged down the field on their next two possession to cut the deficit to just 50-48, and finally, to take a 54-50 lead with just 2:30 remaining.
The game seemed to be tilting in the Knights’ favor when McCormick was sacked for a loss of six yards to bring up a third and eight. But such was not the case, as the clutch quarterback delivered the final dagger—a 57-yard touchdown strike to DeLay to put the team up 56-54.
Martin Luther got the ball back with just under a minute to play, but Maranatha’s defense halted them on three consecutive pass plays to end the game.
McCormick’s big game included 380 yards passing, 64 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while De Lay finished with 166 yards on nine receptions and a touchdown.
The run game was aided by Saxon, who finished with 111 yards on 17 carries for a 5.7 average, and Brendemuehl, who chipped in 58 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, the Crusaders were led by the former Northern Athletics Collegiate Conferences’ tackles leader, linebacker Ethan Kennon (Raleigh, N.C.), who posted 12 total tacklers, and Brendemuehl, who also notched 12 tackles and forced a fumble.
Maranatha looks forward to a home matchup next Saturday, September 14 at 2:00 p.m. against Trinity Bible College.