Faith Lutheran sophomore linebacker Ma’a Gaoteote studied game film from a tablet, mere moments after surrendering a fourth-quarter score to Arizona powerhouse Chandler on Saturday.
The Crusaders can learn a lot from the country’s preseason No. 8-ranked team.
Even during defeat.
Faith Lutheran stumbled to a 35-21 loss in the third leg of the annual Polynesian Football Classic showcase at neutral site Liberty. The Wolves (3-1) are ripe with Division I talent and opened the first half with 28 consecutive points, forcing a number of adjustments from Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox.
The Crusaders (1-2) responded by scoring 21 points in the second half while limiting the Wolves to seven, prompting praise from Fox in the postgame huddle.
“It’s hard to chase, especially to a team that’s that good,” he said. “But I liked the fight. I liked the fact that our guys kept going. We’ve just got to find a way to get over the hump.”
For most of the game, the Crusaders were at the mercy of Chandler quarterback Jacob Conover, who has committed to Brigham Young. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 298 yards and five touchdowns.
Arizona State recruit Gunner Maldanado had 124 receiving yards and two touchdowns. California commit DeCarlos Brooks had 144 all-purpose yards and two receiving scores, and future Texas tight end Brayden Liebrock caught a touchdown during a 68-yard day.
“We knew what we’re getting into when we scheduled the schedule we have,” Fox said. “We understand that, and we’re up for the challenge. … It’s to prepare us for our conference play and also to put us in the position where we can compete with the best that’s out there.”
Faith Lutheran quarterback Sagan Gronauer threw three interceptions and was sacked six times in the first half, but found a rhythm in the second to finish 21 of 48 for 263 yards. He threw an additional pick and a 64-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Thornton.
The Crusaders also forced five turnovers and turned two fumble recoveries into scores.
“Everything is getting back to X’s and O’s,” said Gaoteote, who has committed to Southern California. “Learn from what you did. Other than that, we kept fighting until the end. I can’t say anything bad.”