Gridiron gang inspiring

In most circumstances, a 3-4 season in high school football would be considered a disappointment.
Heck, if this was the cut-throat world of Texas high school football, a coach more than likely would be fired following the first game of the season if his team was soundly blanked in their home-opener.
However, this year’s Muskie football team doesn’t fall into that situation—making their fifth-place finish in the WHSFL’s Currie Division standings an impressive one as they prepare for tomorrow’s quarter-final showdown with the fourth-place St. Norbert Celtics at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg.
Going into the season, the future for the black-and-gold looked quite bleak as the amount of players turning out to pre-season practices were very low, along with the fact their starting quarterback from last season (Tobijah Gerber) was lost for the entire campaign with an ACL injury.
Nevertheless, the Muskies had enough players to field a team for their league-opener here back on Sept. 9 against those same Celtics. And although they were shut out 36-0, you could tell some slow progressive steps were being made during the second half.
While some might not have thought that Fort High would be contending for any wins until much later in the season, if it all, the black-and-gold were able to nab their first victory of the 2011 campaign a week later—a 14-2 triumph at Tec Voc.
Following three tough outings against the top teams in the division (Sisler ‘A’, Daniel McIntyre, and Elmwood), the Muskies sported a 1-4 mark going into the final two weeks of the regular season. But head coach Chad Canfield was confident his team could win their remaining two games.
And lo and behold, the boys lived up their coach’s word, downing host Dryden in a 21-17 thriller under the lights and then blanking St. John’s there last week to improve their seeding for the playoffs.
It’s a night-and-day difference for the Muskies from where they stood as team in that opener to where they are now, with running backs Colton Craig and Harley Mainville pounding away on the ground and Grade 9 quarterback Ben Whitburn slowly developing into a role he was thrust into a year earlier than planed.
But the most solid contributors have the been the defence, whom Canfield has mentioned on numerous occasions as being the backbone to the team’s successes.
While they can be a little too amped up, at times, the linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs all have been fairly effective in their roles to stop their opponents, with 10th-grader Braden Webb blossoming into one of the top DBs in the division.
Before the season began, assistant coach and Fort High athletic director Shane Beckett talked about trying to change the culture of the football program—and that you “weren’t a loser if you were playing on the football team.”
Although the team still is nowhere near where it was during their glory days when they would knock off schools from Thunder Bay, this season is a step in the right direction, no matter what transpires tomorrow against St. Norbert.
While they’re not one of the favourites to take the division crown, anything can (and usually does) happen when the playoffs roll around, so a Cinderella run by the Muskies isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
The only drawback is that playoff games always are held in Winnipeg, which is a bit disappointing given the season that the Muskies have had as it would be great for the players to show their friends and family just how much they’ve progressed over the past two months.
However, I’m sure the goal of everyone involved with the program come next fall will be to nab a home-field win, which is something that has been eluding Fort High for the last couple of seasons.

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