Muskies bounced out of quarter-finals

For a team that got eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the football Muskies are content with the season that was.
“[The coaching staff] told them they played a heck of a game,” said Muskie ‘A’ head coach Bob Swing on the mood in his team’s locker room beneath Canad Inns Stadium after the Muskies were beaten 21-14 by the Churchill Bulldogs in Winnipeg High School Football League quarter-final action last Friday.
“You could see the intensity. It was the way the game was supposed to be played. . . . The one thing our guys did was play hard.”
“We played right through to the end. I was pleased with how we played,” echoed Muskie running back Jock Gemmell.
“Obviously, getting knocked out early is a little upsetting. But now we know what to expect for next year,” added safety and wide receiver Kevin Gemmell.
But in the end, a semi-final date this weekend with the defending champion Oak Park Raiders was not in the cards for the black-and-gold, who finished 4-4 overall.
Down 7-0 at the half, the Muskies scored all their points off two successive Churchill turnovers. Jock Gemmell made the Bulldogs pay both times as he caught a 20-yard pass from quarterback Andrew George and then a short five-yard hitch for touchdowns.
But Churchill turned up the pressure throughout the third quarter and finally cashed in on a 35-yard touchdown reception by Brenden Dufalt at the horn.
Then quarterback Terry Willer-ton and Dufalt hooked up again early in the fourth quarter off a 50-yard hitch pass out of the backfield for the game-winning score.
The Bulldogs had salvaged the drive earlier by successfully converting a third-down punt fake. It was a move the Muskie coaches anticipated but couldn’t stop.
“We had our punt fake defence in,” recalled Swing. “The bottom line is they made more plays than we did. We just didn’t stop them on that crucial play.”
Bulldog head coach Gerry Urbanovich said his team answered the bell when the Muskies scored their quick touchdowns.
“We were kind of on our heels a bit in that third quarter. Our kids showed a lot of character to come back like they did,” he remarked.
The Muskies also had two big plays called back due to penalties. In the second quarter, an 80-yard pass play to the Bulldog two-yard line was negated by an ineligible receiver downfield.
Then with about five minutes to go, a game-tying 60-yard punt return by Adam McTavish was washed out by a roughing the kicker call.
Swing credited the Bulldogs for making the necessary adjustments after being stymied by the Muskies 10-7 during the annual Homecoming game here Oct. 5.
“They knew what they wanted to do and stuck to their game plan,” he said. “We thought we might have got them out of it a bit. They executed when they had to.”
Swing noted a fair number of local residents—mainly family and friends—made the trip to Winnipeg to support the team.
Meanwhile, with only three players—McTavish, Jock Gemmell, and defensive lineman Ryan Mason—set to graduate this year, the Muskies will have their eye on improving in the WHSFL next season.
“This was all new for us. We’ve seen the best this league has to offer so we’ll be ready for next year,” said Swing. “Those are some real leaders we’re losing but we’re confident with the players looking to step into their roles.”
Kevin Gemmell said this past season was “much more fun [than in years past]. There were a lot of opponents to prepare for.In NorWOSSA, we usually knew what to expect.”
“It’s a really good league. The players who will be coming back next year will field a really good team,” enthused McTavish.
The WHSFL playoffs continue this weekend with the Bulldogs (4-4) meeting Oak Park (8-0) while St. Paul’s (7-1) will battle Kelvin (3-5) in the two ‘AA’ conference semi-finals.
In the ‘A’ conference, former NorWOSSA rivals, the Dryden Eagles (4-3) and Kenora Broncos (6-1), will face each other in the semi-finals tomorrow. The Broncos thrashed Sisler’s junior varsity team, 70-1, while Dryden squeaked by Maples, 25-24. The Eagles needed a clutch, one-point endzone kick in the game’s final minute to eke out the victory. St. John’s and Sturgeon Creek play off in the other ‘A’ conference semi-final.