They say defence wins championships but the Muskie football team also is finding out it can win you games early on in the season.
A week after blanking the host Tec Voc Hornets 42-0, the black-and-gold's defence came up huge yet again in a 14-8 victory over the previously-undefeated Elmwood Giants on Friday afternoon in their WHSFL home-opener.
Leading 14-8 with less than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Muskies (2-1) were able to shut down the Giants' offence after a failed two-point conversion play put the ball back in Elmwood's hands.
“Defensively, we shut the door on 'em right when it mattered,” Muskie head coach Mike Cuzzolino said after Friday's win.
“I think that was the big and important thing," he noted. "We were able to close it off and we didn't let them make any big plays on us today.”
Allen led the way defensively for Fort High with eight tackles while Josh Gerley had seven.
Aaron Scheibler and William Richards both recorded four-and-a-half tackles while Wyatt Richards had three.
“Our guys played some 'smashmouth' football today,” Cuzzolino lauded.
“Special teams were great," he noted. ”Kicking wasn't great but we didn't give up any big returns on kick-offs and punting, so it's really nice to see.
“And we're really coming together as a team," Cuzzolino enthused. "These guys are a real brotherhood, so you know it was a good team win overall and we played pretty well in all aspects.”
The Giants fell to 2-1 with the loss, making for a four-way tie atop the seven-team Currie Division ('A') between the Muskies, Elmwood, St. John's, and Churchill heading into this week's action.
With back-to-back wins under their belts and their confidence continuing to rise, the Muskies now are looking to keep the momentum going.
The black-and-gold next see action this Friday when they hit the road to face the winless Lorette Scorpions (0-2).
“We showed that we finally believe that we can play with any team in this league, and that's huge,” Cuzzolino stressed.
“The confidence is good here and we're going to keep working, keep building, and move onto [this] week.”
Cuzzolino conceded the Muskies could have been better on offence Friday against Elmwood, and that they will be trying out some new plays in practice this week.
“We're just going to keep on diversifying our offence," he said. ”We're gonna throw in another package and throw in some extra plays and keep building.
“[We're going to] keep getting our young guys some reps in practice and get them in just so we can maximize our depth and get these guys some experience,” he added.
As for Friday's game against Elmwood, it was a back-and-forth struggle until late in the second quarter.
Muskie quarterback Brady Meeks, named the CTV varsity “Player-of-the-week” on
offence in the Currie Division last week, found some room down the left sideline and ran in a three-yard touchdown to open the scoring.
Instead of kicking the extra point, Meeks opted to run a two-point conversion play, in which he found offensive linesman Colten Allen in the end zone as the Muskies jumped out to an 8-0 lead with just 13 seconds to go before halftime.
“This team, my brothers, give it their all every single play [and] all day at practice,” Meeks said.
“This is the best team I have ever played on by far,” he added.
“I don't really know how to sum it all up but these guys are awesome and I love playing with them.”
That success was short-lived, however, as the Giants came back to tie it with a touchdown of their own on the first possession of the third quarter (the two-point convert was good).
But Meeks connected with receiver Cam Bowles, who ran for a three-yard touchdown to put the Muskies back up 14-8 in the fourth.
Fort High once again opted to try the two-point convert but this time was thwarted by the Giants' defence—leaving the game in the hands of the Muskie defence with 2:17 to go.
But as has been the case so far this season, the black-and-gold's defensive line stood tall and shut down the Giant's offence to preserve their second win.
“I'm going to give a shout-out to Cam Bowles. He really won us this game today,” lauded Meeks.
“I did OK [but] I could have done a lot better," he added. ”We're gonna go back to practice this week and work on passing and catching.
“And we need to work on pressure situations like we had today.”
Meeks finished the game going four-for-15 for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Bowles wound up with 116 yards on 19 carries while also scoring a touchdown.
Riley Argue had three catches for 80 yards while Ayden Gushulak had one catch for 16 yards to round out the offence.
On special teams, Carson Noga had two punt returns for 24 yards while Argue had a 31-yard kick-off return.
After this Friday's game against Lorette, the Muskies will end the regular season with a pair of home games.
Fort High will host the Maples Marauders (1-1) on Oct. 4 before welcoming the St. John's Tigers (2-1) on Oct. 12, with kick-off at 4 p.m. for both games.