Muskies facing must-win game
Following an 18-9 loss to the Steinbach Sabres here last Friday afternoon, the task at hand is simple for the Muskie football team.
If Fort High can defeat the St. Norbert Collegiate Celtics in their WHSFL regular-season finale this Friday at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, they will assure themselves a spot in the Andy Currie ‘A’ Division quarter-finals
“If we win, we’re in,” said head coach Chad Canfield. “But if we don’t, I don’t think we are going to make it.
“It’s a must-win game and it’s going to depend a lot on the positioning, too, as Dryden is one point up on us right now in the standings after they tied Tec Voc last week,” he noted.
As a result of Friday’s setback to the unbeaten Sabres, the Muskies find themselves in a tie with the Kenora Broncos for seventh place in the
standings, with Tec Voc sitting just one point behind them.
The top eight teams in the 11-team division advance to next week’s quarter-finals.
Against the Sabres, who are tied for the division lead with the Elmwood Giants at 6-0, it was a defensive struggle throughout the first half, with neither offence able to move the ball downfield.
“Both teams throw the ball a lot, so it was a little surprising that no one was able to get things going early,” Canfield noted.
“We did watch a lot of film, though, on these guys heading into this game and I thought that we matched well with them, especially in the secondary.
“We were able to limit their points, and the defence was able to put the offence into some good field position,” he added.
The Sabres got on the scoreboard first a few minutes before halftime when quarterback Foster Martens worked his way out of the pocket, avoided a pair of sack attempts, and found Jon Stoesz in the end zone to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The Muskies responded midway through the third quarter when quarterback Tobijah Gerber snuck into the end zone on a third-down play from the one-yard line, which had been set up by a long punt return by Braden Webb a few plays earlier.
After the Sabres’ offence was stopped on their next drive, punter Chris Brown-Fillion was looking to boot the ball out of his own end of the field.
But he only could watch on as the snap sailed over his head and through the end zone, which gave the Muskies a safety and a 9-7 lead.
From that point on, however, the visitors took control of the game.
Stoesz hauled in a second receiving touchdown just before the end of the third quarter to retake the lead, with the Sabres then scoring a rogue (single) and nailing a 10-yard field goal later in the game to round out the scoring.
“We made a number of mistakes and execution errors out there,” admitted Sabres’ head coach Jamie Peters.
“Fortunately, we were able to hang our hats on another stellar defensive effort that kept us in the game, and we were able to capitalize.
“That’s what the team game is all about . . . being able to overcome issues,” he stressed.
Despite the loss, Canfield praised the play of a number of his defenders, in addition to Webb’s key punt return that set up their lone touchdown.
“Joe Ball was amazing out there today, and John Colfer made a big pick late in the game that gave us another chance to score,” he noted.
“Mike Murphy and Will Goodwin both put in some physical performances for us, as well, and their [Sabres’] coaching staff said afterwards that they haven’t been manhandled like that all year.
“That’s the kind of football that we like to play,” Canfield added.
While this Friday’s game is huge given the playoff implications for the Muskies, it also will mark their lone visit to the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this season.
It also will see them matched up against a St. Norbert team that’s coached by former Muskie Adrian Huntley.
“It’s going to be a fun game,” Canfield said. “St. Norbert has struggled a little bit this year, but I’m sure Adrian will have his guys playing hard like always.
“And I think he’ll have them ready even more for this one, especially since he’s playing us,” he joked.