Faced without a league to play in this season, the Muskie football team was forced to play a series of exhibition games against Manitoba squads.
And the black-and-gold dominated them, posting an 4-0 record while outscoring their opponents by an incredible 172-35 margin.
Their latest victim was the St. James Rods, comprised of players aged 17-20, whom they beat 25-20 last Wednesday at Winnipeg Stadium. In fact, the game was not as close as the score might indicate, with the Muskies jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead.
St. James did score three second-half touchdowns, including one on the final play of the game, but the outcome was never in jeopardy. Still, the points ended a streak of 10 consecutive scoreless quarters for the Muskie defence.
“It was fun having the streak and when they got points on us, it was disappointing because we had them in the first half,” said Aaron Caul, who led the defence this season with four interceptions.
“The defence played pretty good all year and they were proud that they hadn’t given up any points in over 10 quarters,” added defensive co-ordinator Brent DeBenedet.
“Everyone out there made a couple of plays,” he continued. “[St. James] made a couple of plays on us at times and controlled the ball but we made the necessary adjustments.”
Once again, the Muskies had several players who went out and made big plays.
“It’s hard to single out just one player because every single one of those guys played a great game,” enthused running backs coach Greg Allan.
“We knew they were a bigger team but I wasn’t surprised [we beat them] because our team has a lot of confidence and we thought that we could use our quickness against them,” he noted. “We used our quickness to jump all over them.”
Doug LaBelle opened the scoring on a 15-yard reception from quarterback Gary Wager, then Terry LaBelle scored a pair of touchdowns—one on a 30-yard run and the other on a nifty 45-yard interception return—to make it 21-0.
LaBelle (who missed most of the second half due to ’flu-like symptoms) almost scored a third touchdown but his 75-yard run to the end zone on a hand-off from Wager was called back due to a penalty.
Allan said LaBelle had an outstanding game to finish off another spectacular season.
“It’s too bad Terry couldn’t finish the game to end the season but I told him he played a great half and a lot guys would like to play like that in a whole season,” he noted.
Actually, a lot of Muskies had great seasons on both sides of the ball. The offensive line was outstanding and that carried right through to the running backs, the receivers, and rookie pivot Wager.
“It was such a great season, especially when you look back at all the trials and tribulations at the beginning,” said Allan. “But the kids stayed focused and the players always played as hard as they could.
“They always rose to the challenge and they were never intimidated,” he stressed.
“It just shows that Fort Frances has a first-class football organization and the kids came along way from the first game in knowing the system,” added DeBenedet.