Belton, Texas – On Saturday, September 21, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football program held its first game in the new Crusader Stadium. After weeks of anticipation leading up to the opening, some 9,384 fans filled the stadium as the Crusaders defeated the Wesley Wolverines by a score of 35 to 7.
Vice President of Athletics Randy Mann was predicting a large crowd leading up to the game but his expectations were surpassed by what he saw Saturday.
“We had been keeping up with reserved ticket sales, and in the last couple weeks we watched as more and more people were coming in for the general admission tickets,” Mann said. “But the crowd we got… It was unbelievable, more than I could have imagined or fathomed.”
Prior to the kickoff, UMHB held a short ceremony officially dedicating Crusader Stadium. The university paid tribute to Elizabeth and Drayton McLane, Jr., and their family for the lead gift which made the stadium possible. Mrs. McLane cut a ceremonial ribbon at the center of the field, and Mr. McLane saw to the coin toss. At midfield he shook hands with the captains from both teams, including his three grandsons, Dray, Brooks, and Walker, who served as honorary captains for the evening.
The national anthem was sung by Jared Johnson. Johnson was a member of the Crusader football team in its inaugural season before graduating from UMHB in 2002 and moving to Nashville to pursue a career in music. He was a competitor on CMT’s Can You Duet and has since appeared in all four seasons of The Singing Bee. The anthem was performed immediately after a giant American flag was unfurled across the field. A flyover by the Central Texas Wing of the Commemorative Air Force out of San Marcos was timed with the end of the song.
In their first drive of the game, the Cru took just four downs to cover 75 yards and score the first touchdown in Crusader Stadium history. It would not be their last. The Crusader defense held then #4 Wesley scoreless for more than three and half quarters, while the offense racked up touchdown after touchdown.
“You couldn’t have scripted it better,” Mann said. “For them to score early, get the momentum, and get the crowd into it, it just played out perfectly.”
It was a great day for Crusader football fans and the UMHB community.
“It was obvious that the community was behind us and supported it,” Mann said. “The ending was spectacular. The players were going around the field high fiving fans while the fireworks were going off overhead. It was just an amazing night.”