Crusaders finish regular season with shutout win

The Crusaders head into Thursday’s tier 2 championship game and Canadian Tire Classic as a slight underdog, finishing the season below the Marauders in the standings.

The Carlton Crusaders ended their regular season on Friday with a 28-0 shutout victory over Evan Hardy.

The win improves Carlton’s record to 4-2 to end the season, and helps them build confidence heading into the playoffs next week.

The Crusaders started slow on Friday, but that was expected from a team that hasn’t played a game for three weeks due to COVID. Head coach Lindsay Strachan said the lack of action definitely had an impact on his team’s performance.

“You could tell sometimes that we haven’t played a game in a couple weeks from looking at our offense and special teams and substitutions,” Strachan said. “Our sharpness and our execution just wasn’t where we would expect it to normally be, but we worked through it. The boys battled. At the end of the day, we did what we needed to do.”

Carlton led 7-0 after the first quarter, and finished off with three more touchdowns to come away with the 28-0 win.

Strachan was impressed with the play of his defense despite a few weeks worth of rust.

“I thought our defense played really well start to finish,” he said. “They did a good job of battling through a few things, and we stuck with it. They had a heck of a game to give our offense opportunities with the football. I thought by the end of the game we were putting ourselves in a good position for next week.”

This is the first high school football season in a couple of years, and Strachan said it was tough to put any expectations on his team since they haven’t played competitive football since COVID started.

“Everybody was kind of in the same position. It felt like we were essentially restarting a football program this year, just because you haven’t been in touch with the guys as much with having a year off,” he said. “We weren’t really in a place to have a ton of expectations with how we wanted our record to unfold this year. I’m happy for the guys. We put ourselves in a good position in terms of where I think we fit in for the playoffs.”

The Crusaders start their playoff season next week, and Strachan says his message to his group won’t change with the added pressure.

“We want and expect ourselves to play well, and we feel if we control the things we can control, then we’ll be in a good place to be successful,” he said. “We have to make the most of our opportunities. We’ve worked all year to get to this place, so we’re going to have some fun and get after it.”

The Crusaders, as well as the St. Mary Marauders, who won their last regular season game on Thursday, will both play their first playoff game this week.