For the Muskie football team, a serious dedication in all practises will be paramount to playoff success.
That’s the message head coach Mike Cuzzolino wants to get through to his squad before the games become even more pressure-packed.
A 21-13 loss to the St. John’s Tigers (4-1) on Friday afternoon in their annual Homecoming game snapped a four-game winning streak and leaves the Muskies (4-2) having to wait and see how the final week of the regular season plays out as Fort High has the bye.
The black-and-gold head into this week in a three-way tie for first place in the WHSFL’s seven-team Currie Division (‘A’) with the Tigers and Elmwood Giants (4-1) but could see themselves slip as far as fourth place depending on how things shape up.
“Our focus will be to pick up the intensity and urgency in practice,” Cuzzolino said.
“No more lacklustre practice,” he stressed. “So kick up the tempo.
“And our mentality for the playoffs is to win every play [and to] take it one game at a time.”
For the first time this season, it was the Muskies who were scored on first in Friday’s loss to St. John’s.
Tigers’ quarterback Myles Kakewash connected with his receiver to put the visitors up 7-0 in the first quarter (the extra point was good).
But the Muskies showed great resilience on their next drive when quarterback Brady Meeks completed a pass to receiver Carson Noga, who then rambled 85 yards for the touchdown.
Noga didn’t have a chance to breath as he then was money on the extra point chance to knot the score at 7-7.
After a scoreless second and third quarter, the black-and-gold took their first lead in the fourth when Meeks connected with running back Brett Allan, who rambled into end zone to put his squad up 13-7 (the extra point was botched).
That miss on the extra point proved costly as St. John’s scored on their ensuing drive to forge ahead 14-13 (the extra point was good).
With time dwindling down in regulation, some poor coverage on a kick-off resulted in the Tigers capitalizing on a lengthy scoring run to push it to 21-13 (the extra point was good).
The Muskies had a great chance to attempt to tie it with under two minutes to go, but Meeks was picked off in the red zone by the Tigers’ defence to preserve their fourth win of the season.
“The conditions were the same for both teams so we’re not using that as an excuse,” Cuzzolino stressed.
“We just didn’t execute when we needed to,” he conceded. “We lacked a sense of urgency.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” Cuzzolino added. “The boys battled to the end.
“It really just boils down to a few errors. A few penalties.
“We had two fumble recoveries called back because of early whistles, and poor coverage on a kick-off that led to their [the Tigers’] go-ahead TD,” he noted.
“Ultimately, we’ve been too lackadaisical during practice, and on Friday St. John’s came ready to play.”
Meeks finished the game going six-of-14 for 127 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
He also picked up 54 yards on seven carries.
Brett Allan had eight carries for 36 yards and a touchdown while Brady Bodnarchuk had five carries for 26 yards.
Sheldon Kelly added 35 yards on five carries.
On defence, Colten Allen led the way with nine tackles while Kaden Kocuiba had a big day with three tackles and three sacks.