The Muskies rolled into Kenora last Friday for their NorWOSSA matchup with the Broncos confident they were a good football team.
Afterwards, the Broncos were left feeling the effects of that confidence.
While there were several big plays in the black-and-gold’s 45-23 spanking of their arch-rivals, leaving the team atop NorWOSSA with a 3-0 record, one offensive series spoke volumes about this year’s squad.
With the Muskies facing third down and one yard to go from their own 30-yard line, and holding on to a slim 21-13 lead, head coach Bob Swing elected to gamble for the first down.
Then with the Broncos crowding the line of scrimmage, Muskie quarterback Jon Caul audibled a passing play and calmly connected with Mike Canfield for a 36-yard gain that moved the ball into Bronco territory.
An audible of that nature is rarely seen at the high school level.
“Our players understand what they’re doing, and we have talked about situations where we can call audibles when other teams show us what they’re doing,” noted Swing, adding Caul made the audible on his own.
“Jon saw them crowding the line, and while I would have preferred he made the throw to the outside, he threw it over the middle and that’s what he felt comfortable with,” he said.
Then later that series, the Muskies called in their “stupid” play to turn a 25-yard field goal attempt into a touchdown pass to Terry LaBelle.
The Muskies appeared panicked that they had failed to bring their kicking tee out on the field. While the players and coaching staff played their parts in the “scheme,” the ball was quickly snapped to holder Mike Noonan, who shovelled the ball back to Caul, who found LaBelle for the major and a 28-13 lead.
“We pretty much thought up that play [ourselves], and the key is to let the players have fun with it,” said Swing.
It was a wild play to a crazy game that saw both coaches pull a gamut of trick plays from the hat in a game that was scoreless midway through the second quarter. But suddenly it was 21-13 for the Muskies by halftime.
The black-and-gold opened the scoring on a 12-yard touchdown run by receiver Gary Wagner on a reverse from LaBelle. But the Broncos tied it at 7-7 when a Jason Faulds pass went through the hands of receiver Dan Gilmore and right to Brent Chagnon, who scampered 46 yards for the major.
The Muskies regained their lead with just over two minutes to play in the half when running back Dana Preston dove to the left corner of the end zone from 15 yards out.
But the Broncos scored another touchdown on their next series when Curt Siwak hauled in a 62-yard catch on a halfback option from running back Shon Lavand, pulling Kenora to within 14-13 (the extra point hit the upright and bounced away).
Then the Muskies pulled out a big play of their own just seconds later when Preston hauled in a 60-yard “Hail Mary” toss from Caul after two Bronco defenders collided and tipped the ball to the waiting receiver to end a wild second quarter at 21-13.
After the fake field goal made it 28-13 in the third quarter, the Broncos closed the gap again on their next series when Jeff McFayden fumbled a Kenora punt near the goal line and Siwak pounced on the loose ball in the end zone.
Faulds then found him on the two-point conversion to make it 28-21.
But the Muskies pulled away in the fourth quarter, reeling off an impressive drive on their next series, capped off with a 20-yard field goal by Caul, before LaBelle added his second major of the game to make it 38-21.
After the Muskies conceded a two-point safety late in the fourth quarter, LaBelle added another touchdown on the ground in the final minute to round out the scoring.
While both teams scored their share of points on the afternoon (the Muskies racked up almost 500 yards in total offence), the black-and-gold’s defence did come through with a number of big plays down the stretch, in particular stopping the Broncos on a pair of third-and-short gambles.
The defence also had five quarterback sacks for the second game in a row.
“We’ve been working in the last week on hitting the gaps in practice and the hard part is getting there," said Swing. ”Now that we’re getting there, we have to start making some more tackles.
“But guys like [Justin] Nick and Jeremy Hasiuk did a good job for us [getting in the backfield],” he noted.
The Muskies will use their bye week to entertain the Sturgeon Creek Schooners (Winnipeg) in an exhibition contest Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Westfort.
The Schooners, 2-1 in the suburban conference of the Winnipeg high school league, are coming fresh off a 39-8 loss to the River East Kodiaks.