Opening loss seen as embarrassment

“For every action, there is a reaction and the lesson is learned from the consequences from each reaction, meaning there is no action without a purpose.
“Every movement, thought, and breath holds a distinctive purpose, but it’s the simple actions that truly hold the greatest leverage in our lives.”
Muskie running back Terry Carmody wrote these words, which head coach Bob Swing read to the rest of the football team during the bus ride back from Winnipeg last Friday afternoon after an emotionally disparaging season-opening 50-7 loss to the Miles Mac Buckeyes.
Although butterflies no doubt were swirling inside, the Muskies seemed raring to go after a motivational speech from Swing, which he didn’t intend to be motivational.
“You’re not going to get any Hollywood inspirational speeches from me,” Swing said, his voice rising before they stepped onto the East Side Field in front of about 200 people and with the temperature hovering around 35 C with the humidity.
“Line up and hit them. You’re going to hit, hit, hit, hit, and hit until you hear that whistle—take no prisoners,” he stressed.
But from the opening play, it seemed the Muskies were playing as if they were on probation.
Buckeyes’ running back Erin Sesak took the first ball handed to him for 22 yards and that set the tone for what would be a simple (Miles Mac essentially used the same four running plays all game long) but dangerous running attack.
Still, it was the Muskies who scored first when Alex Wepruk took advantage of the swirling wind and booted a punt through the Buckeyes’ end zone for a single.
But it was only a matter of time before Sesak would get loose again—which he did when he scampered 21 yards a Buckeye touchdown later in the opening quarter (the two-point convert attempt failed).
The Buckeyes struck again when Matt Picard booted a 17-yard field goal a few plays after Wepruk’s punt was blocked.
“He can really kick, and it’s effortless,” long-time Muskie assistant coach Greg Allan said of Picard, who was routinely kicking 40-yarders during the pre-game warm-ups.
Entering the game, the Muskies had heard whispers of Sesak, who last year set Winnipeg High School Football League records in rushing touchdowns (12), total yards (1,334 yards), and carries (193).
But the black-and-gold forgot—or just didn’t know—of the Buckeyes’ monster fullback, Kyle Atkinson, who later rumbled into the end zone from 46 yards out to give his team a 15-1 lead (Picard surprisingly hit the upright on the extra-point attempt).
Then again, the Muskies had never played the Buckeyes before, having dropped down to the Andy Curry Division (formerly the ‘A’ division) over the summer after playing their first four years in the WHSFL in the ‘AA’ division (now known as the Kas Vidruk Division).
Did switching to the so-called “lower division” swell the Muskies’ heads?
“We’ve told them that just because it’s a so-called ‘lower league’ doesn’t mean the play is going to be different,” said Allan.
Especially against a team like Miles Mac, which made the league final in their first year of existence four years ago and also produced a Most Valuable Player.
And though the school of 1,200 only sports a roster of 33 players, at least three-quarters of those are in their third year with the football squad.
Obviously, the Buckeyes were a team that couldn’t be taken lightly, but their coach, Corey Kapilik, suspected the Muskies went into the game with notions of grandeur.
“I don’t know but maybe by coming into the single-A division, they thought that it would be easier than it was in the double-A,” said Kapilik. “But both leagues are very competitive.”
“Last year, all we were saying is that if we were in the other league that we would win,” admitted Carmody. “And we go into this league expecting to win and we get knocked around.”
On the other hand, the Muskies went into their season-opener having not played an exhibition game (their match-up against Sturgeon Creek was cancelled at the last minute when the Schooners couldn’t field a full team).
As well, the black-and-gold also are fielding a team with not much WHSFL playing experience.
Trailing 27-1 at the half, whatever the coaching staff said during the break seemed to sink in once play resumed.
First, the Muskies converted a third-and-one attempt on their opening drive of the second half thanks to a three-yard quarterback sneak by Steve Boileau.
Then on the next play, Carmody started to the right side, cut back through the Buckeyes’ linebacking corps, and scampered 50 yards down the left sideline to make the score 27-7 (the Muskies failed on their two-point attempt).
But what seemed to be a momentum shift turned out to be a mirage. The Buckeyes quickly brought the Muskies back to reality by scoring 23 unanswered points in a game that saw Sesak finish with 223 yards.
Carmody ended up with 91 yards on 15 carries, but the Muskie passing attack was anemic with just 11 yards (Blake Wepruk stepped in for Boileau in the fourth quarter and threw two interceptions).
“I think Fort Frances is going to be a top team in our division—there is no question to that,” said Kapilik. “I think we performed well, but I think everything went our way.
“From start to finish, that was the most complete game we’ve ever played.”
“I was talking to their coach and he was saying that was best his team has ever played,” noted Allan. “I get so tired of hearing that because every team that plays us says that.”
Carmody took Friday’s loss hard.
“I’ve kind of blocked out most of the losses over the past two years,” Carmody noted, his eyes visibly tired after having shed a few tears. “I know we’ve had some bad ones, but this has been the worst feeling one.”
Those discouraging feelings also were being felt by Swing and his coaching staff, who were in a state of shock from the effort their team produced.
“You hope it can’t get any worse,” said offensive co-ordinator Shane Beckett. “The only mistake you can make is to not learn from it. If we don’t get better because of this, then we have a problem.”
“It’s an embarrassment—that’s what it is,” Allan, who’s been with the Muskie program since 1987, said wryly.
The only comment Swing would say after the game—the team taking a knee and huddled around him, with many in tears—was this: “We stunk badly. We will get better. Judge us at the end of the year and not at the beginning.”
The next test comes this Friday (Sept. 16) at 4 p.m. here against Sturgeon Creek, who are coached by former Muskie standout quarterback Brett Watt.