Muskies romp to win
Whatever concerns the Muskies had about their offence can be shelved for at least one week.
The black-and-gold scored touchdowns along the ground, through the air, and even on special teams in a 43-0 pounding of the visiting St. John’s Tigers (Winnipeg) on Friday afternoon to kick off regular-season action in the Andy Currie Division of the WHSFL.
“We had a big first quarter,” he noted. “We got out in front and that helped a lot.
“We were ready for them.”
“We wanted to do well for the home-opener and it’s great to get the win at home,” echoed Grade 9 starting quarterback Eric Matthews, who was 3-for-4 in passing for 28 yards and a touchdown.
“We really came together as a team,” he added.
Tigers’ quarterback/punter Brandon Thomas, who completed the lone St. John’s pass as part of a 1-for-6 performance for only six yards, conceded a safety 4:32 into the game instead of punting from his end zone.
After the ensuing kick-off was returned by Webb to the Muskies’ 48-yard line, it didn’t take long for Fort High’s offence, which had head coach Chad Canfield concerned in the pre-season, to flex its muscles.
Ben Whitburn ran for 13 yards before Dougie deBernardeaux brought a swift conclusion to the two-play scoring drive with a 49-yard scamper to the end zone, busting two tackles along the way.
Cody Bell missed the convert to leave the score at 8-0.
“Dougie is a special kind of player,” said Canfield. “His vision is his best asset.
“Not that he’s not fast or shifty, but it’s amazing the way he sees the cut-back lanes,” Canfield lauded.
“I’ve never coached anyone like that.”
The Muskies’ next drive was aided by a 15-yard face-mask penalty against St. John’s, which moved the ball to the Tigers’ 20.
Two plays later, Matthews hooked up with Tristen Badiuk in the end zone for an 11-yard scoring pass, with the extra point by Bell making it 15-0.
The Tigers’ tough day was exemplified on their next drive.
On a perfectly-executed delayed hand-off, Chevy Pickering was well into the Muskies’ secondary before anyone even knew he had the ball and ended up with a 49-yard run down to the Fort’s 25.
Unfortunately, the fake to the other running back in the backfield, Rylee Nepiak, was so convincing, it even caught the attention of one official, who blew his whistle midway through Pickering’s run when Nepiak was tackled.
In the end, the ball was brought back to the point when the whistle had been sounded—the St. John’s 53—for only a 17-yard gain.
Two plays later, Muskie defensive tackle Kenton Bowles dropped back into coverage and intercepted Robert King, who came in for Thomas on the play to try a play-action pass.
In the second quarter, deBernardeaux (nine carries for 155 yards) had a 33-yard touchdown nullified—reduced to an 11-yard pick-up thanks to an illegal block call.
But it made no difference to deBernardeaux, who simply went back to work with a five-yard run and then another 17-yarder, which put him in the end zone for a 21-0 lead after Bell’s missed convert.
Meanwhile, things went from bad to worse for the Tigers. St. John’s punted on their next drive—only to watch Jacob Bolzan race around the corner and down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown return.
The game then took a frightening turn on the ensuing kick-off.
Tigers’ deep man Brett Yaskiw had trouble fielding the kick, then was crushed by the Muskie Wade Johnson. He remained motionless on the ground for several minutes.
“Their player was tied up by one of our guys and Wade came in a million miles an hour—like you’re supposed to—and hit him,” Canfield said.
“[But] you never want to see anyone get hurt.”
Yaskiw eventually was taken away on a stretcher by an ambulance after complaining of soreness in his neck and back, and possibly suffering from a concussion.
The remaining 2:19 of the quarter was run off the clock on the decision of referee Rick Wiedenhoeft to bring an abrupt end to the first half.
After the Muskies went two-and-out to start the second half, the Tigers fumbled Whitburn’s punt, with Brayden Spence recovering the loose ball at the St. John’s 24.
That led to deBernardeaux re-entering the game for one play—which was all he needed to dash to paydirt with his third major of the day before getting the rest of the day off.
Whitburn’s convert attempt missed to keep it at 34-0.
“All three running backs played great, especially Dougie,” said Matthews, who also was replaced at that point by back-up pivot Brandon Whitecrow.
“He really wore down their ‘D.’”
After Bowles recovered a fumble on the next St. John’s drive at the Tigers’ 35, Whitburn connected on an 18-yard field goal for a 37-0 advantage.
That put the WHSFL’s rule of playing with no time stoppage after one team goes up by 35 points into effect.
“Bowles is a beast,” praised Canfield, who also complimented the work of Bowles’ fellow lineman, Dallas Gervais, and the linebacking corps of Johnson, Tanner Gill-Roisin, and Brett Mann.
“This group of Grade 9s is really special. They play like Grade 12s,” he noted. “They’re tough and fast, and they get it.
“You can see the big difference because of the junior program,” Canfield added.
“You don’t have to teach them things like the proper stance from Day 1.”
Back-up running back Dan Andy, who had a solid day himself with four carries for 74 yards as part of the 279 yards Fort High gained on the ground, capped the scoring with a terrific 45-yard touchdown run during which he shook loose of three different St. John’s tacklers.
“It’s great that when Dougie gets into the end zone a couple of times and we get up in the game, then we can give some reps to some of our other guys,” said Canfield.
“Dan came in and played well and Jarrod Ball got a few touches, too.”
The Muskies (1-0) continue their season-opening stretch of three-straight home games this Friday (Sept. 13) when the Daniel McIntyre Maroons of Winnipeg (1-0) come to town for a 3 p.m. clash.
The Maroons downed the visiting Dryden Eagles 27-13 last Friday to start their campaign and Canfield knows it won’t be as easy the second time around for his squad.
“I told them right after the game, ‘Don’t let it go to your head,’” Canfield stressed. “Daniel Mac is a pretty good football team from what we’ve heard.
“I’m glad they’re coming here,” he added.