Muskies defeat Raiders

Perhaps there is some truth to the Friday the 13th superstition after all.
But despite an unbelievable string of bad luck hanging over the Muskie football team like a black cloud, the black-and-gold blanked host Oak Park #2 21-0 in their WHSFL regular-season finale Friday afternoon.
The win was particularly gratifying for head coach Bob Swing and the rest of the coaching staff given the number of obstacles they had to overcome leading up to, and over the course of, the game.
“We had the weather issue just getting into Winnipeg,” Swing said, referring to the poor road conditions caused by an early-winter storm.
“We were a little late [arriving in Winnipeg] and when we got there, we found out they weren’t expecting us because the highway was closed in two spots between Winnipeg and Kenora and Kenora and Dryden,” he added.
But the highway closures meant the Muskies would be without defensive co-ordinator Lou Gauthier, who had chosen to drive himself to the game via the Canadian route and was stuck in Kenora.
Gauthier’s unexpected absence caused significant problems for the Muskies as he normally handles the defensive signalling duties. As such, Swing was forced to frantically go over the defensive signals with unit captain Steve Boileau in the minutes leading up to kick-off.
The Muskies had hoped to limit Boileau’s minutes at his regular defensive safety position because he was filling in for quarterback Blake Wepruk, who was ill.
Unfortunately, with Gauthier gone, it was a luxury the Muskies could not afford and Boileau was forced to stay on the field throughout the game—calling the plays for both the offence and defence.
The Muskie coaches thought they had ironed out all the kinks before the Raiders’ kicked off to start the game. But subsequent first-quarter injuries to starters Terry Carmody and Mike Sande necessitated another personnel shuffle, making it a hectic first half.
“It’s been a long time since, as a coaching staff, we could say that the game was moving real fast for us,” Swing remarked. “But that game was moving fast in the first half.”
Despite all the upheaval on the sidelines, the Muskies still managed to play effective football against the Raiders.
As he has all season long, Carmody led the offence—despite missing a few plays due to a minor knee injury—by carrying the ball 23 times for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
The star tailback was the beneficiary of some solid blocking from an ever-improving offensive line.
“It all starts with the line,” Swing said of the secret to the potent Muskie running attack.
“We’ve worked hard with the offensive line to get the blocking schemes and they’re getting better week by week.”
But while Carmody’s numbers were impressive, the standout performance of the week may have been that of Boileau, who was effective in running the offence while contributing on the defensive side of the ball with an interception.
“Stevie played well,” Swing said. “We really needed him to play well and he played well.”
Boileau finished the afternoon four of eight in passing attempts for 28 yards and an interception.
The Muskies’ impressive offensive performance was matched by the defence, which allowed significant Raider gains on only three plays en route to the shutout.
“We didn’t do a lot,” Swing said of the Muskies’ defence. “We didn’t show a lot. We played pretty vanilla and in doing that, we still only gave up three big plays.
“If you’re only going to give up three big plays and they’re all less than 30 yards, then you’re happy,” he added.
The black-and-gold do not play this week because it is their scheduled bye. Which means they’ll enjoy an extra week of practice while waiting to see who they’ll face in quarter-finals either next Thursday or Friday in Winnipeg.
The Muskies got off to a strong start against the Raiders on Friday as they drove the ball deep into Oak Park territory on their first two possessions of the game.
They were unable to put any points on the board, however—both times turning the ball over on downs.
But while the Muskies were moving the ball, the Raiders were struggling to find their rhythm against a tough Fort High defence.
Oak Park was forced to punt on their first possession while Sande intercepted a Raider pass to end their second drive.
He made a great return on the interception, getting to the Oak Park 38-yard line before being forced out of bounds.
But the play would prove costly for the black-and-gold as Sande injured his knee when he was tackled and did not return. And his status remains questionable for the Muskies’ quarter-final showdown next week.
The news got worse for the coaches when Carmody went down with a knee injury after being tackled two plays later.
He missed a couple of series but appeared no worse for wear, breaking off a 68-yard touchdown run to open the scoring upon his return late in the second quarter.
Matt Depiero successfully converted the point-after attempt and the Muskies led 7-0 at halftime.
The Muskie defenders made their presence felt at the start of the third quarter when Jesse Brunetta picked off a Raider pass attempt on Oak Park’s first possession of the second half.
The black-and-gold struggled to move the chains on the ensuing drive and lined up to punt on third down. Instead of punting, though, the Muskies faked and Depiero picked up a crucial first down.
The trick play seemed to re-invigorate the black-and-gold’s offence as they drove the ball down the field—capped by Carmody’s second touchdown of the day on an eight-yard run.
Depiero added the point-after and the Muskies doubled their advantage to 14-0.
The Muskies appeared to add another touchdown later in the quarter when receiver Brian Glavish took a pitch 14-yards for an apparent score. But the play was called back due to a penalty.
The black-and-gold were not to be denied, though, as Carmody ran the ball in from 20 yards two plays later.
There were no flags on the play this time and the Muskies led 21-0 following Depiero’s conversion.
The fourth quarter saw both teams exchange punts and interceptions.
Boileau was picked off late in the quarter, giving the Raiders one last chance to get on the scoreboard.
Oak Park could not muster any offence and were forced to punt. But they got it right back when the ball hit a Muskie on the return and was recovered by a Raider.
The Raiders then moved the ball on successive plays but any threat of a late score was erased when Depiero picked off an errant pass—the Muskies’ third of the day—to end the game.

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