Muskies meet Bulldogs in quarter-finals

Step one of the Muskies’ first year in the Winnipeg High School Football League has been completed: get a feel for every team and gain confidence heading into the playoffs.
They’ve done that—finishing the regular season in fourth-place with a 4-3 record after beating the Sisler Spartans 26-17 last Friday afternoon at Winnipeg Stadium to avenge a stinging home loss the previous week.
But step two will be much more challenging: making a run at the Avanets Cup—the league championship—by winning three-straight road games starting this Friday against the fifth-place Churchill Bulldogs (3-4) in the ‘AA’ quarter-finals at Winnipeg Stadium.
The Muskies beat Churchill during the regular season—a 10-7 victory during the annual Homecoming game here Oct. 5.
Other quarter-final action this weekend will see top-ranked and defending champion Oak Park (7-0) facing eighth-place Grant Park (1-6), second-place St. Paul’s (6-1) meeting River East (2-5), and third-place Sisler (4-3) versus sixth-place Kelvin (2-5).
The winner of the Muskies-Bulldogs contest will meet the winner of Oak Park-Grant Park on Nov. 3 at Winnipeg Stadium. The WHSFL final is slated there Saturday, Nov. 10.
“We have ourselves in the proper mindset. Everything will remain the same,” Muskie head coach Bob Swing said on how the team will prepare. “Your goals are the same in the playoffs as they are in the regular season.”
Bulldogs head coach Gerry Urbanovich is looking forward to a rematch with the Muskies—one where they’ll try to improve on their mistakes in the loss here.
“I think whenever you lose to another team, you want to play them again. We’re looking forward to getting another crack at them,” said Urbanovich.
“Everyone does a good job of scouting everyone else. We just have to make adjustments.”
Swing said Bulldogs’ middle linebacker and fullback Matt Harding is one of the WHSFL’s best players and the Muskie offensive line will have to be wary of him.
“They can create some massive problems for us,” said Swing. “But we have a healthy Adam [McTavish] back and I’m confident we can open it up a little bit more than we did [here].”
In their regular-season finale last Friday against Sisler, the Muskies used their speed on the artificial turf to control the play for much of the second half after being down 17-10 at halftime.
After recovering a Spartan fumble on the first offensive series of the third quarter, Muskie quarterback Andrew George gunned a 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vern Pham, who was in the lineup for the injured McTavish, to tie the score.
Pham had scored his first touchdown in the first half off a 20-yard strike from George.
Muskie running back Jock Gemmell then scored a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to give the black-and-gold the lead. He also added field goals of 26 and 20 yards.
A safety in the fourth quarter rounded out the scoring.
“We played a great game. Overall, the turf is going to help us,” said Swing. “Our whole system is based upon movement and aggressive. It took them a half of football to get used to it.
“They matured a lot on Friday,” he added.
Spartan head coach Rick Hudson said his team seemed to lack that killer instinct they showed against this younger group of Muskies here Oct. 12.
“I think Fort played a younger team against us. They were motivated. Some of their big guns had a chance to rest. Some of our people noticed that and maybe held back a bit.”
Swing admitted he wanted to give some of his other starters some rest in the second half—giving a chance for many members of the Muskie ‘B’ team to play some downs.
“We just didn’t want to risk any potential. We want Adam at 100 percent [on Friday],” he stressed. “What we got was healthier. I don’t think we took too many hits in the game.”
Pham caught three passes for 77 yards and the two touchdowns while Gemmell had 14 carries for 65 yards to go along with his 95 yards off kickoff and punt returns.
George went nine for 15 in pass attempts for 116 yards and two TDs. The grade 10 student finished his first regular season as starter with four touchdown passes.
Gemmell and McTavish led the team with four touchdowns each.
Tickets for playoff games are available at the high school office for $2 each.
While tickets also will be available at the Winnipeg Stadium gate on game day, proceeds from the sales here will go directly to support the Muskie football program.