Before last Friday’s first-place showdown with Kenora, Muskie defensive co-ordinator Brent DeBenedet said his defence’s goal was to shutout the Broncos.
Well, those words almost proved DeBenedet prophetic as the black-and-gold came within just two seconds of keeping that zero on the scoreboard.
But a 17-yard touchdown strike from Kenora quarterback Don Fedus to Cam Brown pulled the Broncos to within 13-6 and ruined the Muskies’ chance of pulling off the shutout.
“I think the defence played extremely well,” said an obviously pleased DeBenedet. “[Kenora] had a lot of three-and-outs in the red zone. I think we are starting to come around and we continue to make improvements.”
Improving they are. The Fort defence played an outstanding game, limiting Kenora to just a handful of first downs and handing the offence the ball in good field position on several occasions.
The defence had big games—and big plays—from several key players.
Jeff Poperechny caused a first-half turnover when he knifed through the Bronco offensive line, causing the running back to fumble and then alertly recovering the loose ball.
Chad Canfield, meanwhile, was all over the field making tackles and helped put constant pressure on Fedus during the fourth quarter.
But the biggest play came courtesy of Terry Richards. With the black-and-gold leading 7-0 late in the fourth and the Broncos pressuring inside Muskie territory, Richards picked off Fedus’ poorly thrown pass and raced 65 yards to paydirt for the touchdown.
The major gave the Muskies a 13-0 lead (the two-point conversion attempt was stopped) with just 54 seconds left in the game.
“Terry Richards played well, scoring the touchdown, and Chad Canfield made some big tackles for us,” praised DeBenedet. “They were the mainstays on our defence.”
“Awesome . . . is the best way to describe [how they played],” agreed head coach Bob Swing of the defence’s performance. “Across, the board, they all played [well]. The one thing that epitomized the game and fully describes our program was that all the kids played their hearts out.”
Still, while the Muskie defence was outstanding throughout the afternoon, DeBenedet admitted he was disappointed that they gave up the late-fourth-quarter touchdown, but added he was pleased with the way the defence has begun to gel.
“We have to learn to play four quarters but we were mentally prepared to stop their big players,” said DeBenedet, referring to the Muskies stopping the Bronco running game led by Karl Yanchishyn.
But the biggest stops for the Muskies came in the final five minutes of the game, when the black-and-gold caught a severe case of fumbilitis and turned the ball over to the Broncos three different times.
First, the Muskies fumbled the punt at their own 20-yard line but the defence held up, like they had all afternoon, holding the Broncos to just five yards on three plays.
Kenora then recovered another fumble just minutes later at the Fort’s 45, but after three straight incompletions, gave the Muskies the ball back with 1:32 remaining.
And while Swing and his coaching staff could be seen pacing the sidelines with the Muskies’ inability to hold onto the football. That pace quickened when the black-and-gold fumbled once again on their first play from scrimmage.
“The offence is going through some growing pains [but] the fumbles were the result of extra effort,” defended Swing.
But, once again, the Muskie ‘D’ came through in a big way when Richards picked off the pass, for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
The Muskies opened the scoring on the game’s very first play when Adam McTavish’s kick-off sailed through the end zone for a single point. And, with both teams struggling to generate much of an offensive attack, the score stayed that way until 1:24 left in the second quarter when the Broncos botched a punt attempt with a bad snap that went high over the head of punter Cam Brown.
Brown saved a possible touchdown, however, when he alertly recovered the ball and kicked it out of the end zone to concede the two-point safety.
McTavish added to the scoring in the third, picking up a single point when he was wide on a 44-yard field goal attempt and then later, hitting on a 32-yarder to make the score 7-0.
With the win, the Muskies improve their NorWOSSA record to a perfect 2-0 while Kenora dropped to 1-1.
Next action for the black-and-gold is this Friday when they travel to Wadena, Mn. Game time is 7 p.m.