The Panhandle Crusaders have won 19 consecutive games, dating back to early 2016, and two straight Xtreme South Football League Championships. Now a few months into the off-season, they’re hungry to strap back up and feed their winning addiction.
“The only bowl games I’ve seen are like in the January time frame,” Crusaders owner Will Walker told Developmental Football USA. “If something was going on now, we’d be looking, trying to participate in it. We want to play a bowl game. I told my guys to hold on to their equipment.”
In the past, the Crusaders have traveled from Pensacola to Macon, Ga., Tipton, Ga., Columbia, S.C., and Lehigh, Penn., to take on other tough opponents and they’re looking to do the same this year.
“My goal is to travel and play the best teams out there,” Walker said.
Nearly every football fan knows there is some good football in the state of Florida, where the Pensacola-based Crusaders have put together an 83-28-1 all-time record since their inaugural season in 2008.
“The plan now is a three-peat,” Walker said. “We’re looking forward to repeating next year and I think we have a good chance of doing it.”
Offensively, Octavious Smith has been a mainstay at quarterback since the Crusaders were founded and Walker looks for him to continue to lead the charge as they will look to bring their third consecutive title – and fourth overall – to the Panhandle of the Sunshine State.
“He’s experienced and disciplined and has command power,” Walker said. He’s a field general. When he’s in the game, there’s cases where he might upset a coach on a play because he sees something different and he has the cajones to make that change and 90 percent of the time he makes it work. He’s a field general out there.”
Smith’s go-to guy this year was wide receiver Dante Hicks, who won MVP of the XSFL Championship Game, where the Crusaders won 26-12 over the P-Town Wreckers.
“If I had to compare him to anybody else, I’d say he’s one of the top receivers in the entire league,” Walker said.
Defensively, end Jamal Rounds led the charge for the Crusaders in their successful title defense.
“Nobody could stop him,” Walker said. “He led the team in sacks and broke up plays on the defensive side. He’s one of our true leaders.”
The Crusaders home games are played at Booker T. Washington High School, home to both Roy Jones Jr. and Derrick Brooks. Former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward is currently the head coach at Washington High.