Ex-Charger Cruse now a leader for Bethel
Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 12:03 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Justin Cruse has made a long journey from Martin to McKenzie.
Cruse is enjoying a solid senior year playing football at Bethel University after a tough but worthwhile road to get there from his days as a member of the Westview Chargers.
“He’s had an off-and-on career here due to (knee) injuries,” Bethel head coach Dino Kaklis said recently. “He’s worked hard to get back on the field this year.”
At 5-11 and 265, Cruse has earned a spot in the rotation on the defensive line and has been a steady contributor there this season. Having played in five of his the Wildcats’ six games, Cruse has recorded 11 total tackles, including three solo stops and eight assists. He has posted a sack and another tackle for a loss.
Among his tackle totals include three assists against both Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Union College.
For his career, Cruse has 17 total tackles.
“He’s getting on track and working hard,” Kaklis said. “He brings consistency and a workmanlike attitude to our team. He’s a leader.”
Cruse, on track to graduate, has been a leader to the younger players. Guided by his own collegiate experiences, he has been able to share his story to incoming players. Cruse can keep them focused on team goals and prepare them to face adversity.
“He can speak from his own experiences,” Kaklis said. “He came in as a freshman similar to the situation we’re in now, so he has a better perspective and can translate his appreciation to where we are to the other players.”
Perhaps one of those players learning from Cruse is a fellow Weakley County product.
Matt Mayo, a sophomore 6-0, 237-pound linebacker from Gleason, has made nine solo tackles and three assists for the Wildcats this season. He has developed into a valuable member of Bethel’s kick-off and punt special teams.
Both are contributing to what is one of the nation’s best NAIA programs.
Bethel is currently 5-1 overall and ranked 14th in the latest NAIA coaches’ poll. The ’Cats are 3-0 in the Mid-South Conference, good for first place in the West Division.
Following a week off, Bethel will be back in action Saturday at Cumberland.
The Wildcats have four games remaining on the 2011 schedule, the final home game Oct. 29 against Faulkner University with kickoff set at 7 p.m.
Published in The WCP 10.20.11