Muskies, Bombers trapped in parallel universe

It’s painful to be a pigskin pusher in these parts, assuming proximity is a deciding factor in fandom.
On the NFL side, the Minnesota Vikings seem to be out of sync after their surprising run to the NFC championship game back in January.
That season is still young, but the 1-2 Vikings seem to have a number of offensive concerns where there were very few question marks last year.
As for the game with larger fields, bigger balls, and one extra player, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been excruciatingly painful to watch. The 3-10 Bombers have lost seven games by a touchdown or less, allowing a big play late to give up the winning points.
In their last three losses, by a combined 10 points, the Bombers have led at halftime—only to find a way to drop the game.
Unfortunately, that parallel extends right down to the high school level, where the Muskies have lost their last two games by a combined three points and could be much better than their 1-3 record suggests.
Sadly for the black-and-gold, they’ve gone Bomber-style in their latest setback—a 14-13 heart-breaker to Stonewall here Friday that the home crew coulda, shoulda won.
By head coach Chad Canfield’s own admission, and seconded by wide receiver/quarterback Brad McDonald, the first half of the game was as poorly as they’ve played all season before rebounding in the second half.
While the Muskies eventually grabbed a 13-7 lead, they left a key point off the scoreboard by missing the convert on Tyler Abma’s second touchdown of the afternoon.
Although that point ended up being the margin of defeat, I certainly don’t mean to rag on the kicker in any way (the extra point is so automatic at the professional level that it’s easy to forget it takes a fair bit of skill to master, but I digress).
If the Muskies were anywhere near being able to capture the lightning in a bottle late in their previous game, when the black-and-gold rammed a pair of majors down Daniel McIntyre’s throat in the dying minutes of the game to crawl close, then this past Friday’s game versus Stonewall would have been much, much easier.
In the first half, workhorse running back Abma was contained except for a couple of runs here and there on unsustained drives while quarterback Tobijah Gerber was unable to find many open receivers with the rocket he calls a right arm.
Gerber equally was the victim of dropped balls and slight overthrows in the half.
While it was an extremely unfortunate way for a shift in momentum, Gerber getting knocked from the game early in the second half (he’s a decent possibility to return this Friday, though) jump-started the offence with McDonald at pivot.
With the Rams able to penetrate the offensive line relatively easily, McDonald’s extra mobility and agility were a couple of secret weapons the Muskies were able to trot out.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, those good vibrations were muted by the Rams’ defence late in the game as McDonald and Co. were unable to do much with the ball after the Rams took a 14-13 lead with 1:22 to go.
Another unfortunate part of having to insert McDonald at quarterback, in the face of the loss, is that he’s now on opponents’ game film.
Perhaps Canfield and McDonald didn’t open the entire chapter of plays unused by Gerber this year, and still have a few surprises up their sleeve, but McDonald gave such a different look that he was able to scuttle the Rams for awhile.
While the coaching staff could try to surreptitiously insert McDonald at pivot on select plays and try to catch the opposing defence unaware, having McDonald’s ability admittedly would have been a welcome luxury in a jockeying-for-playoff-position regular-season closer.
How perfect would it have been if Gerber had been able to stay in and bomb the ball into receivers for all seven regular-season games. Then, suppose if Fort High needed a little bit of a comeback, or even an insurance touchdown in their sixth game versus Sisler or finale against St. Norbert, you could pop in an unseen McDonald for a series or two against a couple of defences that seem to be a little more vulnerable than Stonewall’s—and who knows what good might have come of that?
For the Muskies, alas, that potential change of plan doesn’t appear to be in the cards given the teams’ relatively easy access to game film.
Still, like the Bombers, the Muskies are a team who are better than their record would indicate (although let’s not get carried away and dub the black-and-gold the best 1-3 team ever).
The local gridiron gang will be in tough this Friday in Winnipeg against Dakota, but still are within striking distance of Sisler and sit ahead of St. Norbert, so a couple of wins could lead to a build-up of momentum heading into the WHSFL playoffs.
• • •
I’m going to go out on a limb and figure that the Major League Baseball playoffs aren’t quite as beloved as the NHL playoffs in these parts.
Therefore, I’ll just devote small amounts of ink and paper to “quick hit” predictions for the post-season, which started this afternoon on three fronts, with the final series opening tomorrow.
Here goes:
American League
•West champion Texas (90-72) vs. East champion Tampa Bay (96-66)
The Rangers should be able to toss out ace pitcher Cliff Lee twice (should the series extend beyond three games) and it’s hard to bet against surefire MVP Josh Hamilton.
But Texas just seems to have had a lot of things go right this year, especially with the pitching staff by committee.
The Rays have a bit more balance to help Evan Longoria, David Price, and Carl Crawford carry the day in five.
•Wild card entry New York (95-67) vs. Central champion Minnesota (94-68)
Calling this one is a heart-breaker for me, but the Twins just have not been able to beat the “Bronx Bombers” in recent times (8-22 during the regular season the last four years, and 2-9 in three recent playoff match-ups).
Both teams held a turtle race leading into the post-season, and though the Twins came together without Justin Morneau, he’ll be the missing weapon in a bomb show against Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
Yankees in four.
National League
•Central champion Cincinnati (91-71) vs. East champion Philadelphia (97-65)
The Phillies seemed to come into their own after acquiring star pitcher Roy Oswalt, who they now can trot out alongside Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.
The lineup isn’t much different from the one that made Philadelphia a part of the last two World Series, with Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Jayson Werth leading the way.
Although the Reds can boast likely MVP Joey Votto, the clock will strike midnight on the rest of the Reds in three.
•Wild card entry Atlanta (91-71) vs. West champion San Francisco (92-70)
The Giants were able to make up ground and eventually stun San Diego on the final day of the regular season.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain should pace the rotation while rookie Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and a resurgent Pat Burrell should carry the offence.
Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson are a pair of fine arms the Braves can trot out, and though the Braves were able to snag the wild card berth with some under-performing talent (Nate McLouth, second-half Troy Glaus), it’s hard to see enough guys breaking out in a short series.
Giants in four.

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