The Muskies used last Friday’s Homecoming game against the Kenora Broncos to send a distinct message--they will be tough to dethrone as NorWOSSA champs this season.
Using a sensational running attack led by Terry LaBelle, the Muskies dominated the younger Broncos all afternoon en route to a lopsided 36-0 victory.
In fact, the rout was on right from the Muskies’ opening drive, when the black-and-gold needed just three minutes to march 77 yards--all gained on the ground--to jump out to a quick 7-0 lead.
"I’d say we set the tone with that first series," said head coach Bob Swing. "We controlled the line of scrimmage on them and [LaBelle] hit the holes with speed."
LaBelle rushed for 212 yards on 19 carries Friday, and scored three touchdowns. He looked very much like one of the top backs in NorWOSSA, and will give the Muskies a very potent running attack with the return of David Bond, last year’s league-leading rusher who is still out with a broken right tibia.
He’s not expected to suit up until Sept. 26 in Kenora.
"I think I got stronger this year and the coaches have helped me a lot," said LaBelle, who also hauled in an interception on defence. "We tried to pound the ball at them and we did."
The Muskies built a 14-0 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter when quarterback Jon Caul scampered into the end zone on a bootleg.
They stretched their lead to 21-0 in the second quarter when Caul hit receiver Mike Noonan with a 20-yard strike in the end zone.
Caul’s kickoff to open the second half sailed into the end zone for a single point, then, after the Broncos were stopped on successive plays, the Muskies were first-and-goal inside Kenora’s 10-yard line thanks to a 46-yard scamper by LaBelle and a face mask penalty.
Two plays later, LaBelle ran into the end zone to stake the black-and-gold to a 29-0 lead. He also scored the final Muskie touchdown on a scrappy 12-yard run to seal the romp.
But the Muskies were equally impressive on defence Friday, creating five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) and limiting the Broncos to short gains all afternoon.
"Overall, the defence played well and hopefully they’ll continue to improve," defensive co-ordinator Brent DeBenedet said. "They kept the play in front of them, and though they did bend [at times], they didn’t break."
"Our defence proved that last week [a 28-7 loss to the International Falls Broncos] was a fluke," added Swing. "They went through the week thinking they took a beating and they wanted to prove they were a good defence."
Still, the Muskie defence was prone to some bad mistakes and penalties Friday, which may have proved costly in a close game.
"As individuals, we missed way too many tackles, took penalties and made some mistakes on the punt return team," noted Swing.
"Our guys have to remember one win doesn’t make a season," he warned.
The Muskies don’t play their next game until Saturday, Sept. 20 at Dryden against the Eagles, then meet the Kenora Broncos there Sept. 26.
Their next NorWOSSA home game is Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m. against the Eagles.