Special teams to be tightened before opener

Dan Falloon

After a 20-12 exhibition loss against the host St. Norbert Celtics in Winnipeg on Friday night, Muskie football head coach Chad Canfield made no bones about what his crew is tasked with heading into the regular season.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he stressed.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes, so we have to look at correcting those this week.”
Canfield pointed out that two of the Celtics’ three touchdowns came with the Muskies’ special teams on the field, making special teams an area of concern as the black-and-gold prep for their season lidlifter on Friday afternoon against the Elmwood Giants here. Kickoff is slated for 3:00 p.m.
“They got some points off us on special teams,” recalled Canfield.
“One time, we punted the ball and they took it back for a touchdown on us.
“It was just guys not knowing that instead of running down the field close together, they have to spread out and certain guys have to have contain. Everybody’s got a job.
“They actually got two touchdowns off of special teams, so we’re going to have to work on that.”
Canfield noted that while the special teams play was difficult, the mistakes didn’t come from a lack of effort, but were to be expected from a young, inexperienced team.
He vowed that his players will have to be a quick study, though, as he will attempt to right the special teams ship beginning with this week of practice.
“We didn’t get beat so much physically. It was mentally, not knowing our jobs, and we’re going to have some work to do this week,” he reasoned.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to go over a lot of special teams.
“We’ll have to go through it a couple days in practice and then the guys have to go out and implement it,” concluded Canfield.
While special teams plays were a bit trying for the Muskies, Canfield was able to see more potential realized on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Canfield noted that the defence, led by Cody Bodnar, was solid in holding the Celtics scoreless, and though quarterback Tobijah Gerber tossed an interception that led to St. Norbert’s other score, the offence showed flashes in the second half of the game.
Running back Tyler Abma rumbled for a second-half touchdown, while Gerber was able to track down rookie receiver Colton Craig for a major as well.
“He played like an absolute beast on offence and defence. It was great to have him out there,” Canfield said of Abma.
“Colton Craig—it just looks like he’s going to be a fantastic football players,”
“He’s just in his Grade 10 year, so it looks like we’re going to have him for a few more years,” continued Canfield.
“Tobijah Gerber actually threw the ball really well in the wind.”
While the offence wasn’t able to break through until after halftime, the attack was rolling early before some complications set in and stalled the charge for the entire half.
“The first drive of the game, Tyler Abma was ripping off 10 yards a pop, at least, and then we just stalled close to their end,” recalled Canfield.
“We didn’t get any points on the drive because we didn’t get the field goal.
“But the offensive line played great for that first drive, and then for some reason, it just shut down on us,” he continued.
“The coaches had a talk with the guys at halftime, said we really moved the ball well the first drive of the game, and then something stopped.
“The guys kind of just quit. They shut down a little bit. We need to learn to fight through adversity a little bit, and just because we’re down doesn’t mean we’re out,” he stressed.
“The second half, they played much better than they did in the first half.”
The team will be sure to work on some new assignments for the offensive line before this week’s game, but with the short week because of the Labour Day holiday, Canfield figured that shoring up current knowledge through repetition was likely the best way to go, rather than pile on heaps of new information.
“We’ll work on some blocking assignments as well on offence,” he noted.
“I don’t think we’ll put too much else in for the first week.
“We need to learn what we’re doing first before we put in too much else to the offence.”
Canfield was also happy for the opportunity to have scheduled an exhibition game before playing for keeps, as he now has a much better idea of what his team looks like in game action without giving anything up in of the short eight-game Winnipeg High School Football League schedule.
“We were trying to get everybody in the game as well, because it is an exhibition game,” reasoned Canfield.
“We wanted to see how people would perform in a game — who knows their responsibilities, who doesn’t.
“We certainly found that out. This week will be geared a little more to going for that ‘W’,” he vowed.
“I think it benefitted us huge. Now we know exactly what we need to work on and exactly how people are performing in a game, so we took a lot away from it.”
Lastly, Canfield hoped to see a bevy of fans at Friday afternoon’s tilt with Elmwood to support the new-look squad.
“I’d like to ask the town of Fort Frances to come and support us for our home opener next week,” requested Canfield.
“We’ve got a lot of great things going on.
“We’re going to have some food vendors there and hopefully people can bring out a lawn chair and support their team.”