If the Muskie ‘A’ football team thought their inaugural season in the Winnipeg High School Football League has been an eye-opener so far, they’ll have another lesson when they take to the artificial turf at Winnipeg Stadium this Friday.
“I don’t think any of them have ever played there,” said Muskie head coach Bob Swing. “So it’s good to get the novelty knocked off before the playoffs.
“It’s going to be a good week.”
The Muskies will square off against the Sisler Spartans again, who dumped the black-and-gold 22-8 here last Friday afternoon.
But while the team will be gunning for revenge this Friday, as well as gaining momentum heading into the playoffs, Swing said the Muskies (3-3) will face the Churchill Bulldogs (3-3) in the WHSFL quarter-finals Oct. 27 no matter what the outcome is against Sisler.
Both Fort High and Churchill are locked in the four and five positions of the eight-team ‘AA’ conference. But with the other teams are still jockeying for position, the rest of the quarter-final brackets won’t be set until after this weekend.
“It’s trial run. It doesn’t figure into the standings. It’s a chance for us to see what we need to do,” Swing noted, adding playing on artificial turf at the stadium will be a big adjustment.
“We’re just going to bring all our types of footware—nip cleats, basketball, and even broomball shoes to see what works best for us,” said Swing.
“It’s going to be a good week of preparations.”
The Spartans (4-2) set the tone early here last Friday, jumping on Muskie wide receiver and top scorer Adam McTavish with various double-teams, getting the ball back, but with only two field goals and a single off the foot of kicker Darron Brown in the first half to show for it.
McTavish missed a field goal to tally the Muskies’ only point of the half.
The black-and-gold had several opportunities to score points after Kevin Gemmell’s interception at the Spartan 30-yard line but gave the ball back after a quarterback fumble.
“I noticed a little double-teaming off the start,” said McTavish. “I thought we were able to get around it a little bit.”
Sisler continued to put the pressure on the Muskies two minutes into the second half when Chris Morgan scampered 70 yards down the sideline and into the end zone for a 14-1 lead.
The Muskies fought back later in the quarter when quarterback Andrew George connected with Kevin Gemmell up the middle for a 28-yard gain. McTavish then slipped in from a yard out to make it 14-8.
But pinned in their half of the field, and facing second and long against the wind, the Spartans looked to Morgan on another pitch and he broke the hearts of the Muskie faithful with another long touchdown run—this one 75 yards.
To top it off, the Spartans got a lucky break when they caught a tipped pass in the end zone for the two-point conversion to make it 22-8.
There was no more scoring after that.
“The little things. All those little things still come back to get us,” said Swing. “We played really hard but we didn’t play very well, and Sisler played one of their best games.”
McTavish was held to just three receptions for 22 yards while gaining another 29 on the ground. Jock Gemmell rushed for 42 yards and caught three passes for eight yards.
George went seven for 14 for 83 yards but was sacked once for a 13-yard loss.
McTavish, who suffered a sprained ankle during a Sept. 28 loss to Grant Park, sat out the last six minutes of the game after pain resurfaced.
“It just keeps getting aggravated,” he said. “I’m playing for sure [this Friday].”
He credited team defence throughout the game, and admitted the offence will have to play a little better if they want to see action beyond the quarter-finals.
“Our defence is playing phenomenal. They’re keeping us in every game so far,” he said. “Our offence just has to start clicking. Every game we’ve played so far, I think we’ve just beaten ourselves.”
Keeping McTavish and Jock Gemmell in check was exactly what Spartan head coach Rick Hudson wanted from his team as they prepared for the Muskies last week despite this being their first road game—and a first visit to Fort Frances for many of the players.
“It was a long trip but it was all business,” said Hudson. “We have a lot of respect for what Fort Frances would and could do. We did a good job against their top players.”
But McTavish is confident the Muskies won’t have a similar outing against the Spartans there this Friday.
“Let’s just pick it up and go into it next week. We know what we can do. We’re a good football team.”
Some 500 tickets for Friday’s game against the Spartans, as well as for the quarter-final game Oct. 27, now are on sale at the high school’s main office or student council.
Cost is $2 each, with full proceeds from these ticket sales going directly into the team as opposed to buying them on game day.