Adam McTavish darted to his right, avoided a pair of Dryden Eagle tacklers, then used his speed to go wide down the left sideline for an electrifying 90-yard touchdown on the first play of last Friday’s Homecoming game here.
One play. One touchdown.
And that play set the tone for the Muskies the rest of the day en route to a convincing 53-17 victory against visiting Dryden in their NorWOSSA opener.
Despite the lopsided score, the Eagles kept it close in the early going, trailing only 19-9 at halftime. But the Muskies exploded for 34 points in the second half to seal the victory.
With the Muskies up 6-0 after the opening kickoff (the two-point conversion was missed), the Eagles came right back on their first possession—capped by a 20-yard field goal that made it 6-3.
The teams then traded touchdowns. First, Jeff Poperechny banged through an opening in the offensive line for a five-yard touchdown plunge late in the first quarter for a 12-3 lead (again the two-point conversion failed).
Then Eagle running back Byron McKenzie capped off an impressive drive—highlighted by a 38-yard run of his own—with a short TD run from inside the five to cut the Fort lead to 12-9 midway through the second quarter.
But that was as close as Dryden would get.
Muskie quarterback Gary Wager then hooked up with McTavish just minutes later on a nifty 67-yard pass-and-run play that put the black-and-gold up 19-9 at the break.
More importantly, it exposed a weakness on the left side of the Eagles’ secondary—which the Muskies took full advantage of in the third quarter.
With the wind at their back, the Muskies went to the air and it resulted in 16 points. After Wager hit a wide open Nathan Miller in the end zone (the two-point conversion pass to Doug LaBelle was good), he found LaBelle in the end zone from 11 yards out with just 16 seconds left in the quarter.
The two-point conversion was good when Wager delivered a perfect pass to Clint Pruys to make it 35-9 heading into the final stanza.
The Muskies later added three touchdowns by Scott Witherspoon, who was relatively quiet through the first three quarters. Meanwhile, McKenzie scampered 55 yards for his second touchdown for Dryden, capping a drive aided by several Fort High penalties.
Muskie head coach Bob Swing said he was pleased with his offence’s performance, particularly their passing attack.
“We had some good, hard running and we can throw the ball,” Swing said outside the locker room after the game.
There were some problems, too. One was the team’s lack of discipline in taking unnecessary penalties—particularly those of the 15-yard variety stemming from objectionable conduct calls.
“Those were completely unnecessary . . . we won’t tolerate that,” Swing stressed.
The other cause for concern was their ability to stop the run, which could come back to haunt the Muskies when they face Kenora in an early battle for first place in NorWOSSA (both teams are 1-1) up there this Friday at 3 p.m.
This team had trouble stopping the run against Dryden—particularly the quarterback option play—and that will have to be addressed at practice this week before they meet Kenora’s explosive runner in Karl Yanchishyn.
Muskie defensive co-ordinator Brent DeBenedet said his team had prepared for the option play in practice but was not able to stop that running play early in last Friday’s game here. But he also felt his unit did a much better job of stopping the run in the second half.
“I wasn’t pleased with certain aspects of the game but I thought we took control of the line of scrimmage as the game wore on,” said DeBenedet, who has put together some exceptional Muskie defences in the past few years.
“They had a good, strong runner but this week in practice, we will work very hard at our weaknesses,” he noted.
Swing agreed the defence struggled early but felt they got better with each play.
“I was never really concerned with the fact because we weren’t doing things mentally. Mentally we weren’t sharp,” he remarked. “That’s just part of having kids being in the proper spots and practising.”