SJ Crusaders Roll to 55-13 Homecoming Win Over Elsik Rams
Justin Wang ‘25
CLAY STADIUM, September 24 – Bryce Fucik ‘23 threw for 251 yards with four touchdowns, Bryce Lanier ‘23 had two long TD receptions along with a punt return score, and the Strake Jesuit Fighting Crusaders (2-2. 1-0 district) romped to a 55-13 victory over the Alief Elsik Rams to open district play.
Devin Baylor ’23, Giacomo Valente ’23, Ret Thibodeaux ’23, Grant Jackson ’23, and Cooper Fulbright ‘25 all found the end zone as the Crusader offense had a field day. Defensively, Nick Wachel ‘23 had an interception and a fumble recovery as the Jesuit defense settled down after the first quarter and held Rams offense to no points after the 3:34 mark of the second quarter. Overall, it was a confidence boost for SJ against arguably the weakest team in District 23. A number of backups, including second-string quarterback Tyler Socha ‘23, came on in the 4th quarter to round off the dominant win. The homecoming crowd left Clay Stadium satisfied.
The game ended in an atmosphere of good feelings for Jesuit, but both teams got off to sluggish starts. After Owen Rossetti ‘23 kicked off to start the game – the coin toss was likely the only aspect of the game won by Elsik – quarterback Eric Dadzie fumbled a shotgun snap that was recovered by SJ’s Wachel. But on the second play of Jesuit’s opening drive, receiver Thibodeaux fumbled and Elsik came up with the ball. Six straight runs later, Dadzie plowed ahead to give Elsik a surprising lead.
But any worries for the home team were soothed by an ensuing 90-yard drive that ended with Lanier weaving his way through the defense to turn a quick screen into a game-tying score. After the next Rams drive went three-and-out, Elsik punted with Lanier back to receive. Receiving the ball at his own 30, Lanier tested the punt coverage’s right side before cutting back across midfield, shifting around would-be tacklers, and racing to the left pylon for an electrifying score.
Elsik responded with another punt, and on second down Fucik, rolling left, uncorked a laser that hit Lanier in stride at the Elsik 25. #3 coasted in for touchdown number 3 in little more than one quarter, and the Crusaders were accelerating away. The chemistry between Fucik and Lanier was evident on the score.
Doing his best to stem the Crusaders’ momentum, Dadzie plunged into the end zone after an 18-play drive to cut the lead to 15. But Elsik never scored again after the extra point was missed. From there, it was all Jesuit. With under a minute left in the half, Fucik lobbed a 41-yard moonshot that hit Cooper Fulbright square in the chest for another score. The halftime air horn sounded with the scoreboard reading 28-13 for the home team.
After halftime, Fucik capped his characteristically big night with a beautiful 22-yard lob to Thibodeaux in the back left corner. It was Thibodeaux’s first score of the year, and Fucik’s last pass attempt of the game.
The game devolved into a rout after Thibodeaux’s score, with both teams repeatedly running the ball. Fucik handed off to Valente or Devin Baylor on every offensive play, and coordinator Ryan Almon was rewarded with scores of 26 and 62 yards from Valente and Baylor, respectively. Valente waltzed into the end zone behind the powerful blocking of tackle Chrysanthos Fetokakis ‘25, while Baylor took a handoff on the opening play of a drive and accelerated through the heart of the Rams’ defense untouched.
The game reached its closing stages with the entry of Socha, Jackson, and other reserve players early in the 4th quarter, Socha scarcely threw the ball, instead either giving to Jackson or taking it himself. It took numerous plays for Jackson finally punch through, but the score went to 55-13 on Jesuit’s final offensive drive. After the clock finally hit triple zeros, it was onto the handshake line and a rousing rendition of the school alma mater before the victorious Crusaders ran back to the locker room to celebrate.
The Jesuit offense had its way with Elsik the entire game. Fucik threw for 251 yards in addition to his four scores, all accomplished on just 18 pass attempts and 13 completions. Lanier accounted for a whopping 274 all-purpose yards (5 catches for 138 yards and 136 yards on returns), and the offense totaled 450 yards on the night. Baylor finished with 98 yards on 7 carries, Valente had 9 for 72, and Jackson got 29 on 5 touches.
Led by Wachel’s interception and fumble recovery, Elsik was held to 257 offensive yards, including only 52 through the air (in other words, 17 yards less than Lanier alone). Standout performances included 8 total tackles for Wachel, 13 total for Cole Huff ‘23, 12 from Brenden Fote ‘23, and 9 for DB Alex Leone ‘23. Called upon to stop the rush-heavy Elsik offense, they responded admirably.
On special teams, Rossetti’s numerous squib kicks mostly resulted in mediocre field position for the Rams, with two squibs going for touchbacks. He was also 7/8 on extra points, with a botched hold in the fourth quarter the only blemish on what has been a remarkably consistent season from the senior kicker. Good return blocking, combined with Lanier’s escapability, produced excellent results on returns.
Coach Fikac was justifiably congratulatory towards the team’s performance, calling the win “a big momentum boost.” He was confident that “we are definitely moving in the right direction,” and was especially pleased with Lanier’s massive output, calling the senior receiver “the total package” and a “team player”
“[Lanier’s] performance is a statement to the amount of hard work he has put in… I couldn’t be more proud of how he goes about his business and doesn’t ask for anything in return; a very high-character player.”
Coach Fikac was also pleased with the lopsided win, but was mindful that tougher tests lay ahead. He elaborated on the Crusaders’ mindset as they fight to make the UIL playoffs: “Take one game at a time, never underestimate our opponent.”
“The players believe in each other, they believe in the coaches, and we believe in them to get the job done.”
But on this night, amid the festivities of Homecoming Night, there were no complaints as the Crusaders work to put their early-season struggles behind them.
“This win was a great way to set the tone.”