Quarterback Jon Caul tossed two touchdown passes and scored another on the ground Saturday in Winnipeg—not too shabby considering he only played just over half the game.
Caul, who split pivot duties with rookie Gary Wager in the Muskies’ 31-28 exhibition loss to the St. Paul’s Crusaders, completed six of 10 passes for 157 yards and scampered for another 147 yards in pacing their offensive attack.
Caul gained 100 of those yards on the ground in the third quarter alone, including a three-yard bootleg that capped a 70-yard, five-minute drive to give the Muskies a 28-23 lead that held up until midway through the fourth quarter.
The bootleg wreaked havoc on the Crusader defence with Caul in at quarterback.
“Our offence was getting the blocks, and when they have eight guys coming at you, it makes it easier [to run the bootleg],” he noted.
In fact, the Muskie offence was in high gear Saturday, racking up 429 total yards. Running back Terry LaBelle was another standout, gaining 105 yards on the afternoon.
His most impressive run came in the first quarter when he took a hand-off 81 yards to put the Muskies out front 7-3.
Meanwhile, Mike Canfield and Nathan Kempf each hauled in a touchdown strike from Caul.
The Muskies led 7-6 after the first quarter but St. Paul’s dominated play to start the second, scoring on a pair of plunges up the middle from one and three yards out to build a 13-point lead.
But the black-and-gold stormed back. First Caul hit Canfield for a 25-yard major to close the margin to 20-14, then he hooked up with Kempf on a 51-yard catch-and-run play that staked the Muskies to a 21-20 lead.
St. Paul’s added a field goal on the last play of the first half to regain the lead 23-21 but it was short-lived as Caul’s TD run put the Muskies back out in front.
The defence couldn’t stop the host Crusaders in the final quarter, though, giving up a touchdown and single to make the final 31-28.
“We know we have skilled players on offence,” said Swing, who led the Muskies to the NorWOSSA championship last year in just his first season at the helm.
“We looked pretty good," he added. "We moved the ball and when they play with an eight-man front, we would normally look to throw the ball but we wanted to pound the ball at them.”
And despite the loss, Swing said he was impressed with the effort and play from both his veterans and rookies.
“Those guys will never roll over, and you don’t have to worry about them not playing," he said. "The big thing was that we had guys out playing senior football for the first time and we had guys moving around all game.”
Although penalties hurt the Muskies at times Saturday, especially when they were on defence, Swing downplayed the infractions, saying it comes with the territory of playing aggressively.
“I’d rather have a pass interference penalty than a touchdown,” he said.
The Muskies next visit International Falls to play the Broncos in an exhibition game Friday at 7 p.m.
The black-and-gold will open the NorWOSSA campaign Friday, Sept. 5 at 1 p.m. against the Kenora Broncos in what is also the annual Homecoming game.