Muskies snap two-year winless drought

Dan Falloon

2008 may not be that long ago to some, but it’s seemed like an eternity ago for the Muskie football program.
Before earning a 9-7 victory against the host St. John’s Tigers on Friday, Fort High (1-1) had gone nearly two years without a win in the WHSFL—a span of 10 regular-season games, including one forfeit, as well as a post-season tilt.
After finishing last season at 0-7, the Muskies hadn’t beaten an opponent since topping the Maples Marauders 22-14 back on Sept. 25, 2008.
The biggest key to ending the drought came from the defence, which stood tall despite having the Tigers knocking on the door for the better part of the game, noted Muskie head coach Chad Canfield.
“They were in our end most of the game and the defence just kept holding them,” Canfield recalled.
“There were several stands inside our end.
“The other team opted not to go for any field goals early in the game,” Canfield added. “They tried to punch it in on us.”
Early in the game, Gerber broke through, clicking with Colton Craig for a 75-yard score. Fort High missed the convert but still led 6-0.
From there, the Tigers’ defence went shot-for-shot with the black-and-gold up until the dying moments of the game, containing Muskie workhorse Tyler Abma and forcing quarterback Tobijah Gerber to the air in an attempt to generate some offence.
“As an offence, we put the defence in a lot of tough situations,” Canfield admitted. “We weren’t moving the ball like we would have liked to.
“St. John’s really had a good run defence,” he noted. “They really shut down our running game completely.”
 Canfield said the Tigers eventually resorted to some trickery late in the game, breaking out a halfback pass, where the quarterback pitches out to the halfback, who then airs the ball out to a receiver.
The play was successful, as was the convert, and St. John’s led 7-6 with about three minutes to go.
Canfield lauded his troops for not folding under the pressure, instead marching down the field—highlighted by a Gerber bomb to Brad McDonald—to set up the winning field goal by John Colfer.
“The guys really rallied together,” Canfield enthused. “It was amazing to see them learn how to win like that.
“Anytime before that, we would have got scored on and the guys would have shut down a little bit,” he admitted.
“They were really resilient in this one.”
While in the St. John’s red zone, the black-and-gold tried to rush the ball into the end zone but were snuffed out.
So on third down, Canfield called on Colfer to try to wrangle the lead for good.
“We got it down to inside the 10-yard-line,” Canfield recalled. “We tried to punch it in, but again their run defence was really strong.
“John Colfer knocked it through for us,” he continued. “The kids were pretty excited.
“They sure deserved it.”
Coming through in the clutch should provide a boost for Colfer going forward after he missed both field goal attempts in Fort High’s season-opening loss to Elmwood.
Canfield hopes now that Colfer has been successful in game action, that he can carry forward the momentum as the season continues.
“John’s been pretty consistent in practice,” noted Canfield. “He’s struggled a little bit in the games, but he really came through for us there.
“It was good to see him hopefully build some confidence moving forward.
“It’ll help him, hopefully, for the rest of the season.”
Still, the main reason Colfer even had a chance to nail down the victory comes back to Fort High’s defence, with Canfield citing a few stand-outs on that side of the ball.
“Our defensive co-ordinator, Bob Whitburn, called an excellent game,” he lauded.
“He gave us a chance to win, that’s for sure.
“Chris Bobczynski played amazing up front,” Canfield added. “He really made some big tackles for us.
“The secondary played great and the linebackers played great.”
Braden Webb also had an interception, but the break-out player of the week may have been Brandon Pratt, who only joined the team a week ago.
However, Canfield noted Pratt brought a presence to the field and put forth a solid showing.
“Usually it takes guys quite a few weeks to get acclimated with football—proper techniques and things—but he played like a four-year veteran,” Canfield said.
“He made a lot of great plays for us.
“It was pretty unbelievable to watch him out there. He had great football instincts and he’d only been playing with us for a week.”
The Muskies will try for back-to-back wins this Friday at 3 p.m. when they host the Daniel McIntyre Maroons (2-0) in the annual Homecoming game.
The Maroons will fill the role of opponent. And after watching game film of their two wins (coming by a combined score of 64-28), Canfield acknowledged his team will be in tough.
However, as the Muskies continue to progress, he predicted the game will be a tight one.
“They’re a strong football team with lots of speed,” he observed. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.
“[But] as long as we play like we’re capable of playing, I think we’ve got a good shot in it.
“I’ve seen us grow each week,” Canfield added. “We’ve been doing things better, and hopefully this win gives them a little bit of confidence.”
Canfield also has noticed that the Maroons tend to use hard counts in an attempt to draw opponents offside, which is something the Muskie defence will have to be wary of.
After a cold, steady rain scuttled all but the Muskie diehards from attending the team’s season-opener against Elmwood, Canfield is hoping to see a good-sized crowd at Muskie Field this Friday.
“[The season-opener] was probably the worst day of the year, so it didn’t really work out,” he conceded.
“I hope Fort Frances comes out and supports their football team.
“From what I’ve seen from the game film, Daniel Mac’s a very vocal football team and we could sure use some fans out there cheering,” Canfield stressed.
“Hopefully the kids can put on a good show.”