Muskies gearing up for home opener

There’s no place to go but up.
The Muskie football team hit the practice field yesterday afternoon for the first time since enduring a 40-0 rout at the hands of the International Falls Broncos over their Friday night in the teams’ annual exhibition showdown.
Second-year guard Mike Allan, who suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of Friday’s game, was spared the vigorous workout his team received from the Muskie coaching staff.
But watching from the sidelines on crutches, it was a toss-up for Allan what hurt more—his ankle or the recollection of being busted by the Broncos.
“It was fundamental breakdowns,” said Allan, who had to leave the game after throwing a block and then having a group of players fall on his leg at the end of the play.
“We thought we had a chance going in. We fell apart somewhat.”
The tone was set early Friday night when the Muskies went three-and-out on their first possession, then watched the Broncos march the ball downfield on their opening drive.
The Falls capped the series when Josh Presler crashed through the right side, escaped a series of would-be tacklers, and galloped 30 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Bronco pivot Brent Bahr was the beneficiary of more sloppy Muskie tackling late in the first quarter, turning a quarterback sneak on third-and-short into a 15-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 advantage.
The Muskies couldn’t find their rhythm offensively as quarterback Andrew George and his teammates were held to just one first down in the quarter.
A fumble recovery late in the period provided Fort Frances with a breath of life, but the offence again failed to make a first down to halt the momentum.
Jake Presler widened the gap for the Broncos when his tackle-busting dash from 25 yards out three minutes into the second quarter made it a 20-0 contest (the convert was missed).
“There were too many missed tackles, and our blocking and defence has to get better,” said Allan.
Josh Presler struck again with a one-yard dive with 14 seconds left in the half, with Bahr’s two-point conversion run creating a 28-0 halftime deficit for the Muskies.
A defensive stand on fourth-and-inches by the Muskies on their own 17-yard line midway through the third quarter showed some resolve by the beleaguered visitors.
But another three-and-out series by the offence led to a poor punt and good field position for the Broncos.
Floyd Brito made Fort Frances pay for its mistakes by ripping through the secondary on a 27-yard touchdown run, with another missed convert putting the score at 34-0.
The Muskies finally put together a sustained drive later in the quarter, highlighted by a circus catch by wide receiver Vern Pham, who wrestled what looked like a sure interception out of the hands of Bronco cornerback Ross Johnson.
It was all for naught, though, as running back Dan Hettinga was stuffed on a fourth-and-two gamble in Bronco territory to turn the ball back over to the Falls.
Rhegy Gelo drove the final nail into the coffin as the Bronco fullback scampered 32 yards down the sideline for the game’s closing score.
“It was frustrating,” said Allan. “We really didn’t think we’d get beat that badly.”
Looking ahead, the Muskies’ first shot at redemption will be no easy task. The Oak Park Raiders—the three-time defending champions of the Winnipeg High School Football League—will be here for the teams’ regular-season opener this Friday at 3 p.m.
“Oak Park is a very strong team both on offence and defence, and they’re very well coached,” Allan said in anticipation of the showdown between the conference’s two top-ranked squads.
“But we have the confidence we can beat them if we play really well. We have the potential to beat anyone we go up against,” he added.