Football Muskies ready to battle unbeaten Giants

Jamie Mountain

The Muskie football team is a prime example of the difference a week can make.
After having to forfeit their WHSFL season-opener against the host Churchill Bulldogs back on Sept. 5 due to not having enough players showing up at practise, the black-and-gold were amped up and ready to go this past Friday.
The Muskies certainly flexed their muscles often in a 42-0 thrashing of the host Tec Voc Hornets (0-1) that saw them improve to 1-1 in the seven-team Currie Division (‘A’).
“Some of the biggest keys to our success were our ability to move the ball on offence,” Muskie head coach Mike Cuzzolino said of Friday’s win.
“We were able to consistently keep the ball in our offence’s hands, wearing down their ‘D,’ and we scored every time we were in the red zone,” he noted.
With a win under their belt, and the early-season disappointment of not being able to play behind them, the Muskies now are focused on the team’s home-opener this Friday at 4 p.m. against the undefeated Elmwood Giants (2-0).
The Giants have outscored their opponents 86-35 so far and Cuzzolino knows his squad will be put to test on their home field.
“Our key to beating Elmwood is being prepared to beat Elmwood,” he remarked. “A good week of practice and preparation will be necessary.
“They will be coming into our house expecting to win and we can’t allow that,” Cuzzolino stressed.
“If we prepare to win, we will be successful.”
As for Friday’s romp over Tec Voc, it was a truly dominant performance. Quarterback Brady Meeks was stellar, going 12-for-16 for 188 yards and four touchdowns.
He also had 15 yards on two carries while punching in another two scores.
That performance also earned Meeks the CTV Varsity “Player-of-the-week” award on offence in the Currie Division.
“It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one player because in all three phases, offence, defence, [and] special teams, all 12 guys on the field need to play as one unit,” Cuzzolino reasoned.
“So I give credit to those units as a whole because they really came together as a team on Friday.”
Cam Bowles racked up 128 yards on 15 carries while Brady Bodnarchuk had four catches for 93 yards.
Bowles also had an interception for Fort High.
Ayden Gushulak mustered 18 yards on two catches while scoring two touchdowns, with Riley Argue adding 61 yards on three catches along with two scores.
Carson Noga went six-for-six on extra points.
The Muskies’ offensive line also was huge versus the Hornets, not allowing a single sack.
On defence, Brett Allan led the way with five tackles while Colten Allen had five tackles and a sack.
Wyatt Richards had three tackles and a sack, with Kaden Kocuiba recorded two tackles and a sack.
“Another key to our success was our readiness,” Cuzzolino remarked. “We were prepared to win and that is a huge part of our shutout victory.
“We had good practice reps all week so guys were ready to play come game time,” he added.
“The boys knew what they needed to do be successful, went out and executed.
“A few times, our defence had their backs against the wall and they refused to break,” Cuzzolino lauded.
“This team has such incredible heart and commitment, and I’m very proud of what they accomplished on Friday.”
Looking ahead to this Friday and beyond, Cuzzolino said a committed effort to practising and working every day to improve will be crucial for his squad to have a successful season.
“Our biggest challenges to overcome are our inexperience, as well as practice habits,” he conceded.
“We have a lot of first-year players so bringing them up to speed and getting them game ready is extremely important,” he stressed.
“Teaching them our philosophies, and how to tackle and block safely and properly, is our main challenge and focus right now.”
Cuzzolino believes games are won on fundamentals, such as blocking and tackling, so that’s what his players will continue to work on.
“We’ve had a poor practice culture the last few years so changing that and getting up to 100 percent practice attendance is another hurdle we’re trying to jump over,” he remarked.
“Things are going in the right direction, though, as our attendance numbers at practice keep climbing as guys start buying into what we’re trying to achieve.”
Other areas Cuzzolino would like to see his squad improve are on special teams and their kicking coverage.
“This week, our focus are fundamentals as well as our coverage on special teams, and installing new plays on offence and defence,” he remarked.
“We just want to continue to build and improve each day.”