Gruelling stretch closes with loss
The Muskies looked like a team desperately in need of their scheduled bye week during a 41-14 defeat at the hands of the host Kenora Broncos last Friday afternoon.
Fort High (3-3) tried to hang tough while playing their fourth game in 14 days but ultimately let the Broncos (4-1) pull away.
Beaver Brae was stopped on a third-and-two on their first possession, then committed another turnover with a fumble that was scooped up by the Muskies.
But after a two-and-out on their next possession, the Broncos grabbed the lead on the back of a ground game that racked up 328 yards in the contest—the second-straight game the black-and-gold surrendered more than 300 yards rushing.
A no-yards penalty after a short punt set Kenora up at the Muskies’ 20. Three plays later, Broncos’ quarterback Tyler Neil plowed in from one yard out to make it 7-0 after the first quarter.
In the second, Kenora running back Hudson Boucha struck twice with scoring runs on a 31-yard draw up the middle and a five-yard scamper on a third-down gamble to make it 21-0 by halftime.
Aidan Farrell made his presence known in the third with a two-yard major on a sweep before the Bronco defence stuck a dagger in the heart of the Muskies later in the frame.
Kyle Kowalik reeled in an interception and brought it down to the Muskies’ 7, where Boucha scored from five yards out for a 35-0 lead.
Farrell’s one-yard touchdown run in the fourth, the only major not converted by kicker Logan Ginn, stretched the lead to 41-0 before the Muskies finally responded.
After the Broncos fumbled a punt return to set Fort High up at the Broncos’ six, Braden Webb made it into the end zone on a rushing play to put the black-and-gold on the board.
Webb later tacked on a 40-yard touchdown reception, with Cameron Lidkea converting both Muskie majors, to round out the scoring.
In the Fort High’s regular-season home finale last Tuesday against Dryden, the Muskies trailed 18-8 on two rushing touchdowns by Eagles’ quarterback Braydon Hansson of two and six yards and one by running back Liam Wrolstad from three yards out.
The Muskies’ offence came on deBernardeaux’s 77-yard scoring run and a 74-yard punt single by quarterback/punter Ben Whitburn.
A scoreless third quarter saw Webb force Hansson to fumble into the Fort High end zone on what looked like a certain touchdown, but Matt Deschamps was johnny-on-the-spot to collect the loose ball and bring about a touchback.
“That was a good turning point for us right there,” said Deschamps.
Then with less than five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the unbelievable finish began to unfold.
Webb went 39 yards on a catch-and-run which saw him get pushed out near the pylon at the goal line.
Two officials signalled touchdown before it eventually was ruled that Webb was out at the one-yard line—much to the chagrin of Muskie head coach Chad Canfield, who ran onto the field to voice his protest.
But Whitburn bulled his way in on the next play to cut the lead to 18-15.
Hansson terrorized the black-and-gold’s defence for much of the day—running 38 times for 243 yards and three touchdowns on a day when the visitors piled up 367 rushing yards.
But when he went to the air on the first play of the Eagles’ next possession, Hansson promptly was picked off by Muskie linebacker Tanner Gill-Roisin, who took his first career interception 37 yards all the way to the house to give Fort High its first lead.
“I read the play and he came right at me,” recalled Gill-Roisin, who shook off a first-quarter injury to return to action.
“I got a big block from [Webb] and that set me up from there,” he added.
The Eagles answered back with a 13-play, 73-yard drive that culminated in Hansson’s two-yard touchdown run with just under 45 seconds left to make it 24-22.
Dryden then missed its fourth-straight two-point conversion attempt on a day when the Eagles didn’t attempt a traditional point after or a punt the entire game.
And that inability to convert ended up having fatal consequences.
On the ensuing kick-off, Muskies Jacob Bolzan ran into a wall of bodies before finding daylight and turning on the jets to go 80 yards for a touchdown.
“Everyone held up their blocks really well,” lauded Bolzan, who gave the Muskies a memorable present four days ahead of his 16th birthday.
“I was just looking for the one little hole I need to get through,” he added. “I found it and I was gone.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” he stressed.
The party was put on hold temporarily when a penalty flag was spotted at the Dryden 50—until referee Rick Wiedenhoeft signalled the Eagles were offside on the kickoff and allowed the touchdown to stand.
“We lucked out,” beamed Bolzan, whose scored was converted as part of a terrific 4-for-4 day by Lidkea despite a howling wind that vented its fury the whole afternoon.
Hansson tried to lead one last desperate rally. But Matt Cheetham and Dallas Gervais tackled the pivot on back-to-back sacks to leave Dryden facing third-and-18.
Wrolstad tried his luck one more time, but Gervais slammed him to the turf to ignite joyous hysteria on the Muskies’ bench and in the stands.
“I just used the past memory of when we were down one TD to Dryden last year and came back in the end,” said Gervais.
Canfield was proud of his team’s determination, but lamented his team’s continued penalty habit.
“We can’t seem to get away from penalties,” stressed Canfield, whose squad was flagged nine times for 79 yards, including four major fouls for face-masking.
Following their bye week, the fifth-place Muskies can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the third-place Elmwood Giants (5-1) in Winnipeg in their regular-season finale Oct. 17.
A loss by the ninth-place Maples Marauders (1-4) in either of their last two games also will send the Muskies into the post-season.