After passing their first test of this young football season with last week’s 22-14 exhibition win over the Sturgeon Creek Schooners (Winnipeg), the Muskies’ second test will be a whole lot tougher.
They head across the river Friday night to take on the International Falls Broncos—and they’d better be prepared.
“Most definitely, this will be the biggest test to date and we better be ready,” Muskie head coach Bob Swing said of the 7 p.m. showdown at Bronco Stadium.
That won’t be easy. First, the black-and-gold feature an array of rookies this season. Compounding the problem, they face the Broncos after just two full weeks of practice in equipment.
“We would have liked to have played them [later in the season] but we have no control over that,” said Swing. “It would be nice to play the better teams later but [at least] we’re healthy.”
But the Muskie coaching staff has worked hard to get the team ready to where—they hope—they can compete with the Broncos.
“We know they will be big and they will be strong, and they have some very good players returning, but we’ve been trying to prepare our players physically and mentally,” said Swing, whose team dropped a 28-7 decision to the Falls last year.
Perhaps the biggest key will be to keep mistakes to a minimum—and hope for a few breaks along the way. But almost as important will be getting off to a good start.
Last year, the Broncos moved the ball at will in their first series and the black-and-gold quickly found themselves down 7-0 in front of a partisan Bronco crowd.
Meanwhile, assistant coach Greg Allan also stressed the importance of having a healthy lineup against the Broncos.
“The key for us will to be healthy and to give our players, who play both sides of the ball, a rest,” he remarked. “It’s something we’ve talked about to keep the score low.”
The defence, for the most part, is healthy but would be bolstered tremendously with the possible addition of defensive lineman Jesse Rodrigues, who missed last Friday’s opener against Sturgeon Creek due to injury.
Allan said Rodrigues, who was still questionable as of Monday, would go a long way in bolstering their defensive front.
Combined with the leader of the Muskie defence, Chad Canfield, the Fort would have two solid defensive players in their lineup to contain the Broncos’ running attack.
Still, Swing said he was pleased with his team’s defensive play in the opener, adding the early lead enabled him to play many of their less-experienced players.
And he hopes that game experience will help them against the Falls.
“Not to take anything away from them but [the game] gave us a chance to play some players with no senior experience,” he noted.
While Bronco head coach Stuart Norquist admitted they don’t exactly boast a veteran-laden lineup, they do have returning players at several key offensive positions, including quarterback and running back.
And he said they will try to take advantage of that talent in moving the ball against the Muskies.
“You always like to run the ball to dictate the action but last year, they stopped the run and we had to go to the air a little more,” said Norquist, whose team finished 7-3 last season.
“But we expect we will be in for a good game against them. It should be a good game,” he added.