Waynesburg defensive lineman soaks in eye-opening experience
Matt Krause's first trip out of the country included sightseeing, bonding with students and playing a football game in front of several thousand screaming Mexican fans.
The Waynesburg defensive lineman was one of 44 Division III seniors who represented the U.S. in the Tazon De Estrelles Bowl on Saturday in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Americans beat a team of Mexican college all-stars, 32-15, to punctuate a week mixed with fun and intensity.
“It was a once-in-a lifetime experience,” said Krause, who finished with five tackles and a sack. “I enjoyed every minute of it. I wasn't sure what to expect, if it would be a weeklong vacation like the Pro Bowl. But the coaches told us right away that the Mexican team treated it like their Super Bowl.”
Krause's teammates included three Grove City players: linebacker Jason Ferguson, offensive lineman Josh Bermann and running back Shane Kaclik, a Mars product.
Although football was the top priority, the Americans also spent a day in poverty-stricken neighborhood helping with a community service project and teaching football to underprivileged children.
“Other than the game, it was probably my favorite part,” Kaclik said.
Said Krause: “You see (the poverty) on TV, but to be there, to see the joy on the kids' faces and to be able to help — that was eye-opening.”
Saturday's game, which was broadcast by ESPN Deportes, featured sideline reporters, packed stands and a hostile crowd.
“It had a Division I feel,” said Krause, a Youngstown, Ohio, native who had 56 tackles and 4 1⁄2 sacks this season for a Waynesburg team that went 10-1. “The Mexicans wanted to beat us at our game. They were there to represent their country, just like we were there to represent ours.”
Kaclik, a 1,000-yard rusher this season, played safety and special teams in the game because of a shortage of defensive backs. He also raved about the atmosphere.
“The stadium was state-of-the-art, and the Mexican crowd might have been even more into it than (the crowd) at our college games,” Kaclik said. “But it was different because you couldn't understand what they were saying.
“The whole trip was amazing. It's something I'll always remember.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.