Muskie offence struggles in defeat

Muskie football head coach Bob Swing has three golden rules he recites to his players at every possible opportunity:
1. Protect the ball 2. Be disciplined 3. Prepare yourself for the next play.
The black-and-gold took that message to heart in their season-opener two weeks ago here against the Kildonan East Eagles, controlling the ball on offence with running back Terry Carmody while playing aggressively on defence.
But the Muskies could not replicate the performance last Thursday in Winnipeg, falling 16-6 to the host Sturgeon Creek Schooners.
After the game, Swing used his now familiar mantra to explain what went wrong.
“Too many penalties, too many turnovers,” he remarked. “We did a good job of turning the ball over on them, but we also had trouble where the ball hit the ground too many times.”
The Schooners, coached by former Muskie standout quarterback Brett Watt, controlled the line of scrimmage on defence, forcing Fort High into numerous two-and-out possessions.
Sturgeon Creek then managed just enough offensive production to earn the win despite a gutsy effort by the Muskie defenders.
“They’re a well-polished team and we give them credit for knowing what they wanted to do,” Swing said of the Schooners.
“We made some adjustments but we weren’t at our best,” he added. “We just didn’t have that extra little stuff. Our intensity wasn’t where it needed to be.”
The Muskies’ struggles were particularly pronounced on offence. The Schooners keyed on Carmody—surrounding him with defenders and not allowing him any room to run.
Sturgeon Creek’s strategy shifted the offensive burden to Muskie quarterback Blake Wepruk, who did not fare well—completing only two passes all afternoon.
Then again, Wepruk also faced heavy pressure from the Schooners’ pass rush every time he dropped back to pass.
“We didn’t execute plays as well as we could have,” Muskie offensive co-ordinator Shane Beckett said. “We couldn’t get things rolling.
“Their defence played really well and we need to do a better job of moving the sticks,” he stressed.
The Muskie coaches have made no secret of the fact they plan to rely heavily on Carmody to provide offence this season.
The strategy does beg the question, however: is there a Plan ‘B’ if the opposition renders Carmody ineffective by stuffing the box full of defenders?
“Blake Wepruk is a great quarterback,” Beckett replied. “He’s young, he’s developing, and we’ve got some speed at receiver now so that can be a threat.
“Once we get that clicking, it’s going to take away the one-dimensional look that our offence has,” added Beckett. ‘I don’t think that as a coaching staff or as a team we view it as one-dimensional, though.
“I mean, you’re going to ride your horse right? Why fix it if it ain’t broken?”
Despite the offence’s struggles, the Muskies kept the score close courtesy of another strong performance by the defence.
“They [the defence] did a wonderful job of hanging around and giving us a chance to steal a game at the end,” Swing noted.
“We just couldn’t quite do it.”
But while Swing said his defenders played well, there is still room for improvement.
“We just didn’t have as many hats on the ball as we normally have,” he remarked. “Everything was a step slow today [Thursday].”

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