Muskies pull out thrilling win
Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better ending.
Jacob Bolzan’s 80-yard kick-off return for a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter was the difference as the Muskies (3-2) pulled out a stunning 29-24 victory over the Dryden Eagles (0-5) in WHSFL action here Tuesday afternoon.
But with the Muskies staring at a third-straight loss, Bolzan fielded the kick-off at the Muskies’ 30 and the magic unfolded from there.
“Everyone held up their blocks really well,” noted Bolzan. “I was just looking for the one little hole I needed to get through.
“I found it and I was gone.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” he stressed.
Bolzan eluded a bevy of lunging Eagles before winning a sprint to the end zone to send the Muskies’ bench and the bleachers into a joyful frenzy—at least until a penalty flag was spotted at the Dryden 50.
But when referee Rick Wiedenhoeft signalled Dryden had been offside on the kick-off, the celebration was back on.
“We lucked out,” Bolzan smiled.
Then on the Eagles’ final drive, Hansson was sacked on back-to-back plays by Matt Cheetham and Dallas Gervais to force a third-and-18 at the Eagles’ 52.
Running back Liam Wrolstad then was stopped in his tracks by Gervais after a four-yard gain to force the ninth Eagles’ turnover of the day—six of them coming on unsuccessful third-down attempts as Dryden didn’t try a punt all game.
Muskie placekicker Cameron Lidkea’s convert of the major capped an impressive 4-for-4 day in that department, considering the gale-force winds that prevailed all afternoon.
The Eagles declined to try the traditional point-after following all four of their touchdowns, with the Muskies thwarting all four of Dryden’s two-point conversion attempts.
The Eagles jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Hansson touchdown runs of two and six yards.
But on the first play after the ensuing kick-off, Muskie running back Dougie deBernardeaux rambled 77 yards to paydirt to get the black-and-gold on the board late in the first quarter.
Hansson was picked off by Braeden Webb on his next turn, but made up for it by leading a drive later in the second quarter that ended with Wrolstad’s three-yard scoring run.
Muskie quarterback Ben Whitburn showed off his punting leg with a booming 74-yard single to make it 18-8 at halftime.
In the third, Webb stripped Hansson of the ball, which bounced into the Muskies’ end zone before being recovered by defensive back Matt Deschamps for a crucial touchback.
“That was a good turning point for us right there,” said Deschamps.
Webb came up big again in the fourth—taking a pass and scooting 39 yards before being pushed out right near the pylon.
Two officials originally signalling a touchdown before it finally was decided he had been pushed out at the Eagles’ one-yard line.
Whitburn made it a moot point on the next play when he plowed forward into the end zone, with Lidkea’s convert pulling the Muskies to within three with 4:48 to go.
Hansson got the ball back and immediately was picked off by Muskie linebacker Tanner Gill-Roisin, who raced the other way 37 yards for a go-ahead touchdown on his first career interception.
“I read the play and he came right at me,” noted Gill-Roisin.
“I got a big block from [Webb] and that set me up from there.”
Muskie head coach Chad Canfield was happy with his team’s comeback, but still was frustrated with the squad’s penchant for drawing flags.
“We can’t seem to get away from penalties,” said Canfield, whose team was tagged with nine infractions for 79 yards, including four major fouls for face-masking.
“I’m proud of them for keeping fighting, though. . . .
“Give Dryden credit. That’s a pretty damn good team,” he added.
“They kicked our butts physically.”
Fort High will finish a grinding stretch of four games in 14 days when they head to Kenora tomorrow to face the Broncos (3-1).
A Muskie win virtually would clinch a playoff spot in the Andy Currie division (‘A’).
The black-and-gold currently sit in fifth in the 11-team division, with the top eight teams qualifying for the post-season.
“I remember the old days playing up on ‘The Hill,’” Canfield said about the Broncos’ elevated home field.
“I expect a good game from them.”