Muskies snap two-year losing skid

After their first win in two seasons, Muskie football head coach Bob Swing gave an interview in which he said: a). he doesn’t care what the community thinks about the team’s results, and b). thought the kids played great, but c). in what was a really sloppy game.
Oh, and d). referred to himself as the mother of the team.
“I don’t really care what the community thinks,” Swing said after his team’s 18-0 exhibition win over the Sturgeon Creek Schooners (Winnipeg) here last Thursday afternoon.
“The kids work hard and like I told them at the end, they didn’t work any harder than they did today than they did in the last 16 games,” he added. “It’s just that they did the little things right.
“They committed to making themselves better in the off-season and we simplified things.
“So we forced ourselves to be better and I think that’s what you saw in a very, very sloppy game,” Swing remarked.
That “sloppy” game saw the black-and-gold score all of their points in the first half against a team that is part of the Winnipeg High School Football League’s ‘A’ conference while the Muskies are in the more competitive ‘AA’ one.
The black-and-gold jumped on the scoreboard late in the first quarter as Craig McTavish booted an impressive 28-yard field goal into a strong wind.
Their next scoring play came 7:35 into the second quarter as Jake Esselink’s number was called on a well-designed trap play. He burst through the line of scrimmage and crossed the goal line for a 15-yard score.
“It sometimes works, it sometimes doesn’t. It depends on what the linebackers are doing,” Esselink said. “If they see me, then I’m done, but if Thomas [Edwards] sells it enough, then I’m okay.
“But I came through the huge hole from the linemen, and I had one guy that was close to me, but he didn’t react quick enough and I went right by him and it was an open field from there.”
McTavish, who converted the extra point to give the Muskies a 10-point lead, also was involved in the next scoring play.
With less than two minutes before halftime, McTavish burst down the left side of the field and was wide open for quarterback Ty Griffith, who hit him with a 35-yard pass that ended up being a 55-yard score (the convert was missed).
“For Ty, it’s really the first time he’s taken over the team and he’s coming out as a big leader,” rookie offensive co-ordinator Shane Beckett said of Griffith, who has taken over a role that was held by Andrew George for the past few seasons.
Then it was the defence, with 39 seconds left in the half, that forced the Schooners to concede a two-point safety—giving their team an exclamation point behind their first win in 17 tries in the WHSFL.
“It’s really big because half the school says you’re going to lose and half say we’re going to win. And it’s just that we’ll be able to say that we’re not going to lose and we can win,” said Esselink.
“This one is huge for these guys because it’s going to build a lot of confidence and that confidence is going to take them a long, long ways,” said long-time Muskie coach Greg Allan.
Humorous events occurred frequently during last Thursday’s game between Swing and Schooners’ coach Brett Watt, a former Muskie quarterback who still is good friends with his old teammate.
“I always love coming back home. It was nice to come back and just being out on that field,” said Watt, who suited up for the black-and-gold from 1985-89.
“You just remember the wars and the battles that you go through when you’re younger, and with the guys that you played with,” he added.
“When they come to Winnipeg, I go out there and I sit and I watch them, and I cheer them on,” Watt remarked. “I like watching them play and seeing the guys go out there and work hard—even if it’s against me and I’m losing.”
Watt also is disheartened to see that more players aren’t coming out for the team.
It’s been a tough go of it lately for the Muskie varsity (‘A’) team. After dominating the NorWOSSA circuit in the 1990s, the black-and-gold opted to join the WHSFL and managed a 4-4 mark in their inaugural season in 2001.
But while the other two NorWOSSA teams, Kenora and Dryden, headed to the WHSFL’s ‘A’ conference, the Muskies joined the much more difficult ‘AA’ one and have had problems adjusting ever since that first year.
And because of their lack of success, the “bandwagon effect” is in its polar end and kids aren’t coming out for the team. But Swing is okay with that.
“We don’t have bandwagon kids any more, we have football players,” he stressed.
“These kids will deliver. They work hard. They are unbelievable good kids,” added Swing, who, along with the head coaching duties, has taken a maternal role on the team.
“That’s what I do. I’m the mom. I make sure that everybody is going towards the same goal.
“Mom’s going to make sure the laundry gets done. Mom’s going to make sure the food is on the table. Mom’s going to make sure that all the boys’ wounds are taken care of and when things get out of hand, mom is going to come up and put a size 10 in everybody’s keester,” Swing vowed.
The Muskies open regular-season action this Friday in Winnipeg against one of the league’s better team in the Churchill Bulldogs, but Fort High is up to the challenge.
“If we can match their execution, I think that we’ll be there in the end,” said Swing. “We’ll be ready. We’ll always be ready. The Muskies always play hard.”