Bittersweet ending for Wolverines
There was never a doubt in D’Arcy Maguire’s mind.
The co-coach of the Fort Frances Wolverines had just seen his junior football squad deliver a thrilling end to regulation time when Cam Bowles reeled in Matthew Booth’s 19-yard touchdown pass with no time left on the clock to pull the Wolverines to within one point of the visiting Dryden JV Falcons in their season-finale Saturday.
“I’m not one to go for the tie,” said Maguire, whose team needed at least one after Dryden tacked on the only successful convert of the day on their last touchdown—a one-pointer to snap an 18-18 tie midway through the second half to go up by seven.
But the Falcons weren’t interested in any storybook finishes for the Fort; not when they had their own special chapter to write.
An all-out blitz by Dryden forced Booth to scramble for three yards before being brought down to conclude the 25-24 victory—the first in the history of the Falcons’ junior program.
“You live or die by the sword,” Maguire reasoned about choosing to go for the win.
“I figured he [Booth] might be needing to run it any way.”
But despite losing their second-straight game to finish the season with a 2-2 record, Maguire found nothing but positives in the game and the campaign.
“It was a great season,” he remarked. “The bad weather stayed away and all the kids had fun.”
“They have got 150 percent better from Day 1,” lauded Maguire. “It’s just amazing.
“Guys like Brandon Larson, Kaden Nelson, Matthew Booth.
“Garret Cain really grew as a player,” he added. “Jaykob Ryall never played football before and he looked like a natural.
“He’s going to go far.”
Larson, the team’s touchdown leader this season, got the Wolverines off to a promising start on their first drive Saturday with his first of three touchdowns on the day—a 55-yard run less than three minutes into the game.
Quarterback Jarret Hicks of Dryden (1-2-1) immediately responded on the Falcons’ second offensive play, however, motoring past the Wolverines’ defence for a 73-yard major to tie the game 6-6.
Back came Larson, who broke numerous tackles to score from 19 yards out to put the home side up again by six.
On the Falcons’ next drive, running back Erin Wesley fumbled, with Fort Frances recovering on its own 48.
After Nelson sprinted 29 yards on the first play of the subsequent drive and Booth threw an incomplete pass, Larson received great blocking to gain the corner on a sweep to the right.
He then did the rest himself—racing down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown to push the lead to 18-6.
Ryan Ball intercepted Hicks on Dryden’s next drive, but the Wolverines couldn’t pick up a first down and turned the ball over at their own 35.
Two plays later, Hicks took off on another quarterback keeper around the left end and didn’t stop until he struck paydirt for a 40-yard major to make it 18-12 going into halftime.
Hicks then made it a hat trick on the first drive of the second half, breaking loose for a 55-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
The Dryden pivot later added his fourth major when he kept the ball on third-and-goal from the Fort Frances 3, ran right, and then cut back inside to get over the goal line.
Then for good measure, Hicks won a race around the right side to get in for what turned out to be the decisive point.
But the Wolverines weren’t ready for hibernation quite yet.
Mackenzie Flamand recovered a fumble for Fort Frances on the Falcons’ next drive, though it didn’t lead to any points for the Wolverines, who got the ball back again with just under three minutes to go on the Dryden 37.
Facing a third-and-eight at the Falcons’ 35, Booth called his own number and dashed to the Falcons’ 20 to keep his team’s hopes alive.
Then on second-and-nine, Booth lofted a pass to Logan Ballard at the Falcons’ 4 with nobody in front of him—only to have the ball slip through Ballard’s hands.
With the clock running down, the Wolverines had time for one more play. The offensive line gave Booth plenty of time and the quarterback spotted Bowles open behind two Dryden defenders.
The ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity, but floated into the waiting arms of Bowles—much to the delight of another standing-room only crowd of mostly Fort Frances supporters.
While the big finish never came, Maguire said the game—and the season—can act as an important starting point for the next crop of local gridiron hopefuls.
“A game like this will make the kids who can come back again next year want to come play again, and that benefits the [Muskie] program,” he stressed.
“And it will also hopefully help encourage new kids to come out here and play next year.”
The 2014 campaign not only may see a different name for the Wolverines, who are considering a change to more closely mirror the Muskies’ nickname, but also a different and possibly shorter menu of opponents.
“Kenora wants to play their Grade 9s that don’t get to play much with the [Beaver Brae Broncos] on their junior team,” Maguire explained.
“That’s not the direction we want to go,” he noted. “This should be for Grades 7 and 8 only.
“If they go that way, we just won’t play them.”
The Wolverines already are preparing for next season, with any students interested in playing (who will be in Grades 7 or 8 next fall) asked to contact Jody Maguire at 274-3524.
There is a plan to have a spring development camp for potential players and coaches, although no dates have been set yet.