BELTON, Texas — After winning multiple national championships in the last decade, Head Coach Pete Fredenberg and the Cru will face a new challenge in 2021: conquering a spring football season.
UMHB will play a five-game, conference-only schedule starting Feb. 6.
The new season comes after the American Southwest Conference (ASC) announced it would not play football during the fall of 2020 due to COVID-19. The NCAA also canceled the Division III Football Championships, meaning the Cru will not be able to compete for a national title during the 2020-21 school year.
"It was really weird," UMHB senior Jefferson Fritz said. "There hasn't really been a fall where I haven't played football since the third grade."
The Cru were forced to watch on as NCAA Division I schools like Baylor were able to compete during the fall.
The extra time off was helpful to the Cru's younger athletes, like new starting quarterback Tommy Bowden. Bowden played in nine games as a freshman, going 15-22 for 139 yards and one touchdown as the team's backup.
This fall, Bowden was able to take extra snaps with the first team offense.
"It's not always going to be pretty, but I'm gonna do my best to make sure it is," Bowden said. "They're just expecting me to go out and be a competitor and a leader and go out and win football games and conference championships."
On defense, the Cru will be led by Preseason All-American and former ASC Defensive Player of the Year Jefferson Fritz.
Fritz recorded 44 tackles and 3 interceptions during the 2019 season.
While he and the rest of his teammates will not be able to match the same statistical output of the 2019 season during the shortened spring schedule, Fritz says there are still plenty of motivators.
"These five games, of course we want to win, but I think it's about building that team chemistry to next fall when we do have playoffs and make a run for a championship game," Fritz said.
This year, the Cru will play four games against divisional opponents before playing a final cross-divisional opponent in their fifth game.
|Belhaven University||Jackson, MS||Feb. 6, 12 p.m.|
|Louisiana College||Belton, TX||Feb. 20, 12 p.m.|
|Southwestern University||Belton, TX||Feb. 27, 12 p.m.|
|East Texas Baptist University||Marshall, TX||March 6, 1 p.m.|
According to ASC rules, in the fifth game, the No. 1 team from the conference's West Division will play the No. 1 team from the East Division. The No. 2 team from the West will play the No. 2 team from the East and so on.
The battle between the two division leaders will be for a conference championship.
UMHB will be the only Central Texas program playing football this spring. Players say, as the only show in town, they believe this strange season could give the Cru an opportunity to gain more recognition.
"I feel like we're gonna be the highlight of the community and everyone around us," Cru kicker Anthony Avila said. "We're gonna prove just how deep the football is and how tough the competition is."
UMHB opens the season on the road against Belhaven University.