Do-or-die time for Muskie footballers

Staff

The Muskie football team ended the WHSFL regular season on a three-game losing skid.
The squad will have to turn that around–and fast–in order to extend its season.
The playoff picture has been painted, with the black-and-gold set to host the Maples Marauders tomorrow at 3 p.m. as they begin their hunt for the WHSFL Bowl title.
The Muskies, who fell 37-15 in their regular-season finale Friday against the host St. John’s Tigers, finished with a 2-5 record to wind up in seventh place in the Andy Currie Division (‘A’).
That set up a home playoff date against the winless Marauders, who finished last in the division.
“I still believe that this team has the ability to win the WHSFL Bowl,” head coach Mike Cuzzolino said Monday in an e-mailed response to the Times.
“The 21 players that stuck around are warriors, and will do whatever it takes to try and win and compete,” he stressed.
That depleted roster has taken its toll on the team, including in Friday’s loss to St. John’s.
“We turned the ball over too much [and] we failed to come away with points in the red zone,” Cuzzolino conceded.
“But the biggest reason was our boys are exhausted.
“Our roster has shrunk to about 21 players over the last three weeks,” he reiterated. “So our players we have had to unfortunately pick up that slack and they’re just on the field way too much.
“But these players battled from beginning to end,” Cuzzolino lauded. “They never gave up.
“I still think we’re going to improve and can do some damage in the playoffs.”
That starts tomorrow against Maples.
“For us to win, we need to limit our mental mistakes,” Cuzzolino stressed.
“We need to take care of the football and make sure that when we’re in the red zone, we come away with points.
“Defensively, we need to have a bend-but-don’t-break mentality and keep our emotions in check,” he added.
“We know that Maples will make plays but we need to make sure to avoid peaks and valleys and keep the pressure on at all times.
“They will come ready to play,” Cuzzolino warned. “Winless or not, they will come ready.”
Friday’s loss to the Tigers mirrored the Muskies’ previous two setbacks to the East Kildonan Collegiate Reivers (64-14 back on Oct. 6) and the Celtics (36-14 on Oct. 13).
In all three games, Muskie star running back Sekina Scheibler rushed for 200+ yards, including a whopping 294 versus the Tigers this past Friday, but the team was unable to translate that into many scoring drives.
“We struggle in the red zone,” Cuzzolino acknowledged. “Teams load up the box and it’s hard for us to continue to move the ball effectively.”
Muskie quarterback Brady Meeks went 5-12 for 98 yards against the Tigers, tossing two touchdown passes to Riley Argue but also getting intercepted twice.
Graham Anderson led the team defensively with 13 tackles.
“The positives [from Friday’s loss] are that we still managed almost 400 yards of offence,” noted Cuzzolino.
“We can move the ball effectively both through the air and the ground.
“Our ‘D’ held them to two scores for most of the game,” he added. “It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that we just ran out of steam.”
Finishing the regular season with three-straight road games didn’t help, either.
“The road games are tough, especially three in a row,” said Cuzzolino. “But we can’t make excuses.
“We didn’t play our best game yet,” he added. “The best is yet to come for his group.
Should the Muskies beat Maples tomorrow, they’ll advance to face the St. Norbert Celtics (4-3) on Nov. 2 in Winnipeg, with the winner of that game advancing to the WHSFL Bowl final.
Meanwhile, Tec Voc (2-5) will square off against Churchill (1-6) to determine who will face the West Kildonan Wolverines (4-3) in the other semi-final showdown.
“If we beat Maples, we’ll be on the road the rest of the way,” Cuzzolino noted.
“But we’re used to and OK with that.”