In what has become one of the most highly anticipated high school football matchups in the St. Louis area over the last several years, the Lutheran North Crusaders and Trinity Titans met on opening weekend of the 2019 Missouri high school football season. The two teams have met at least once a season every year dating back to 2003, with the exception of last season, as Trinity moved up to Class 3 and Lutheran North stayed in Class 2. Coming into tonight, the two teams had not met since their matchup in a Class 2 District Championship back on November 3, 2017. In that game, the Crusaders edged out the Titans 48-46 in one of the most remarkable games in St. Louis high school football history. But last season where the two teams did not meet, Trinity won the Class 3 State Championship, while the Crusaders finished as a Class 2 semifinalist, as they lost to eventual state champion Blair Oaks. The two teams once again have big expectations for the 2019 season, and their opening game came with eager anticipation.
The two teams were known previously for their high scoring affairs against one another, but the opposite was the case Saturday night at Lutheran High School North. The first score of the game came with 3:36 to go in the first, as Jalen Head of Lutheran North rushed for a touchdown after North was setup with great field position inside the Trinity five-yard line after a bad punt. The Crusaders punched in the two-point conversion as well to go up 8-0. Throughout the first half, both teams saw some sloppy play, as both teams committed turnovers and yellow flags were thrown all over the field in the first half. Lutheran North ultimately took that 8-0 lead into halftime, as neither team was able to move the ball down the field consistently on offense.
Just passed midway into the third quarter, Trinity botched another punt, giving North premier field position once again in Titans territory. But on a 3rd & Goal play, Trinity was able to force and recover a fumble to keep things at a one score game. But on North’s next drive, the Crusaders drove down the field, before being halted inside the red zone. But Lutheran North kicker Jacob Fuller was able to drill a 21-yard field goal to give the Crusaders an 11-0 lead with 1:06 to go in the 3rd quarter, a lead they would take into the final quarter at LaMothe Memorial Field.
Then two and a half minutes into the fourth, Lutheran North delivered what seemed to be the landing blow that would put the nail in the coffin for Trinity. Running Back Ali Wells broke all the way through for a 66-yard touchdown, putting North up 18-0 with 9:29 to play. But Trinity would not be silenced, as they answered immediately with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Xavier Cunningham to Tam Williams the following drive, just 28 seconds after Wells’ touchdown. Then late in the fourth, Trinity was driving again, seemingly making a late comeback. They had the ball just outside the Crusader 20-yard line. But quarterback Xavier Cunningham fumbled the ball after a fake handoff. He was able to recover and pick up the ball but was under duress from the defense, he threw the ball and it was subsequently picked off by Brian Brown of Lutheran North.
Then with just under a minute and a half left, Ali Wells delivered big again, this time the clincher. The sophomore running back broke another run loose, this one being 67 yards for a touchdown to make it 25-6 game with 1:27 left. Lutheran North would hold on by that score and won the season opener over Trinity. Both teams were rusty out of the gate but play certainly opened up in the second half. Despite the loss, the Trinity Titans are still going to be a formidable team in Class 3 all the way until seasons end. The road will not get easier for Trinity however, as they play at East St. Louis next week, one of the top teams in the state of Illinois. Lutheran North faces yet another tough opponent next week as well, as they take on Cardinal Ritter one of the other top teams in Missouri Class 2. Ritter defeated the defending Illinois Class 7A champions in Nazareth Academy at their own place on Saturday by a score of 32-21. While North and Trinity may have shown signs of rust tonight, they both are some of the areas better teams and will we will likely see them both make playoffs runs well into November.
North’s defense shut down Trinity all game long, and their defense could potentially become even more frightening. Nationally ranked and future Division I linebacker Antonio Doyle will join the team come conference play, as he is ineligible to play until then because he spent part of last season at Hazelwood West. The eligibility of transfer DL Travion Ford hangs in the balance as well, as there have been issues with getting him eligible due to issues with the athletic director at his former school. Ford also has several Division I offers and would make an incredible impact on the Crusader defense. Regardless, Lutheran North head coach Carl Reed had his team ready to go for the season opener, especially on the defensive side. Their 25-6 win over Trinity should be the first of many victories this season, as the Crusaders have notched at least nine wins each season since 2013. They will be one of the more compelling teams to watch in the St. Louis area this year.