Muskies suffer second-straight shutout

Dan Falloon

Playing on professional turf didn’t add any extra powers to the Muskie football team Friday afternoon in Winnipeg.
However, it very well may have had an effect on the Sisler Spartans.
The Spartans (2-3-1) cruised to a 34-0 shutout over the Muskies (1-5) at Canad Inns Stadium (home of the Blue Bombers), scoring on a flat Fort High team early and keeping the visitors at arm’s length the entire game.
The black-and-gold went into the game looking to rebound after being on the wrong side of a 42-0 score against the first-place Dakota Lancers the previous week.
“It was a little bit disappointing, just the fact that we were playing in the stadium there,” admitted Muskie assistant coach Dennis Ogilvie.
“It was really exciting for the kids,” he added. “Then to go into the game, we started out kind of flat.
“They got up a couple of scores on us, and everything started to unravel from there.”
Once again, injuries were the story of the day for Fort High as quarterback Tobijah Gerber and running back Tyler Abma were knocked from the game.
Receiver Brad McDonald once again came in to replace Gerber at pivot while Andrew Gobeil relieved Abma, who returned when Gobeil took a hit to the back and left the game.
Without the luxury of a well-stocked roster, a wounded Muskie looms larger than it does for other teams in the WHSFL.
“We’re just a little banged-up right now, and when you don’t have a great deal of depth and experience, that hurts a bit when you’re banged up late in the season,” Ogilvie noted.
“Even if they’re not injured, they still have bumps and bruises and wear-and-tear on the body.
“[The season] is not as long as the pros play, but for a high school student who hasn’t really played the game a lot, you get to this point after you’ve played five or six games,” he explained.
“It wears on you quite a bit.”
Still, injuries give other players a chance to step up. Ogilvie, for instance, was impressed with Gobeil for doing just that in his first action at running this season.
“Andrew Gobeil had a really good game substituting for Tyler Abma,” Ogilvie enthused.
“We put Gobeil in at running back and he did really, really well until he got injured late in the game.
“It looks like he’s out for this week,” Ogilvie said.
Abma came back into the game in the second half.
“His ankle is still kind of iffy, but it looks like he’ll probably end up playing this week,” Ogilvie reported.
Ogilvie feels the offence was close to breaking the goose-egg against Sisler but the passing game, especially, just seemed off by a few inches all game.
“It’s the same sort of thing as it’s been all season,” he noted. “We were just shooting ourselves in the foot—not executing properly.
“Tobijah did a really good job of getting the ball down the field, and even when he got injured, Brad McDonald [did, too].
“Our passing game was there, but it was just off the fingertips, dropped balls by receivers, that sort of thing,” Ogilvie remarked.
“We had lots of shots down the field and not a lot of them worked out.
“On some plays, it’s just so close and that is really frustrating to know that we’re that close from really blowing games wide open,” he continued.
“Then people see the zeroes on the scoreboard.”
On the other side of the ball, Ogilvie lauded Cody Bodnar’s play, taking down several Spartans during the game—and even moving the ball on special teams.
“Cody Bodnar played really well,” Ogilvie noted. “He was all over the field.
“As our middle linebacker, he was going sideline to sideline, making tackles.
“He also had a few kick returns that gave us some decent field position,” Ogilvie said.
The Muskies will look to halt their four-game losing streak in their regular-season finale here this Friday afternoon versus the St. Norbert Celtics (1-5) in a battle to stay out of the WHSFL basement heading into the post-season Oct. 28-29.
The Muskies lost 20-12 to the Celtics in an exhibition game in Winnipeg back on Sept. 3.
Having seen the Celtics in person earlier, Ogilvie has picked up a few areas in which the Muskies must improve to turn the score around.
Offensively, Abma—if he’s well enough to play—will need to be the centrepiece of the attack.
“We need to really pound the ball on the ground,” Ogilvie stressed. “Hopefully, Abma’s ankle holds up and we can really control the ball on the ground.
“Then that will open up our passing offence, as well,” he reasoned.
“We have to put together drives and first downs, and really grind out the yardage,” he reiterated. “It will really help our confidence on offence.”
Defensively, the Muskies just have to play with a bit more vigour, and make the most of the their initial opportunities to tackle instead of allowing extra yards after contact.
“Just playing the same way that we’ve played all year on defence, just being really aggressive,” Ogilvie said.
“We’re too nice of a team, I think.
“Not tackling very aggressively, arm tackles, that sort of thing has really been an issue for us on defence,” he admitted.
“We just need to shore that up a little bit.”
With identical records, Fort High should match up fairly well with the Celtics.
Ogilvie is hoping to see the Muskies win their second game of the season Friday, as well as their first victory on home turf in more than two years.
“We’re capable of beating St. Norbert’s team,” he stressed. “Their record’s not as great as some of the other teams, not that we’re going to take them lightly, but I think this is a game that we should definitely win.
“We’re looking forward to it.”
The black-and-gold do not know yet whether they will play on Oct. 28 or 29 because the playoff schedule will be determined once the final standings are established.
Should the Muskies win Friday and the St. John’s Tigers (2-4) lose, Fort High would win the tiebreaker and finish in sixth place given they beat St. John’s 9-7 back on Sept. 17 for their lone win of the year so far.
If both teams win, or if the Muskies win and the Tigers tie, Fort High will finish seventh.
If the Muskies lose here Friday, they’ll finish the season in eighth place—setting up a first-round showdown with Dakota.
Even if the Muskies and Celtics tie, St. Norbert would take seventh and Fort High eighth because St. Norbert has the edge in point differential.