Blues bounce back
Paul Kane overcomes slow start to defeat W.P. Wagner in high school football
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 07, 2013 06:00 am
Johnny Bright Park – The Paul Kane Blues were their own worst enemy before switching sides in Thursday’s season opener in metro Edmonton high school football.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter to the W.P. Wagner Warriors, the Blues reversed their fortunes in the 35-16 Miles conference triumph.
“It was our fault. We were down because of us,” said Grade 12 quarterback Cory Knott.
Head coach Rob Strecker described the team’s performance as ugly.
“I’m happy that we won but I’m disappointed with our execution. It was very sloppy,” Strecker said of the marathon affair that took almost three hours to complete. “Turnovers. Penalties. Miscommunication. Overthrows. Drops. Missed tackles. Our execution was totally off.”
The defensive unit picked up the slack while the offence slowly rounded into form, as Ryan Strachan and Thompson Clark picked off passes deep in Paul Kane territory in the first quarter.
“Defence definitely kept us in it the first half. They were playing great,” said Knott, who was intercepted on the team’s first offensive series and coughed up the ball while scrambling in the backfield in the last minute of the first quarter. “We had to put up some numbers and we didn’t in the first half but in the second half we came out and everything started connecting.”
The Warriors settled for a 16-yard field goal on their first possession and broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run late in the opening quarter.
Near the end of the second quarter Knott ran for TDs of 14 and two yards. He also located Frankie White in the endzone for the two-point conversion after the second TD with 4.9 seconds left in the half to put the Blues on top 14-10.
A highlight-reel diving catch by Tyler Turner in front of the posts at the two on second down and 11 from the 22 set up Knott’s second TD.
Knott finished the game with close to 200 yards on the ground on the strength of several prolific bootlegs. In the second half he aired the ball out with authority, as the offence got untracked against the weary-looking Warriors.
“It was probably the worst first half of football I’ve played and then the best half of football I’ve played,” said the team’s 2012 Haliburton Trophy nominee as the Carr conference most valuable player.
In the second half Knott connected with Theo Block down the pipe for a 39-yard reception to three. On the next play Greg Fleming crashed his way into the endzone. Knott’s convert made it 21-10 to end the third quarter.
Knott also fired TD passes to Block, who wasn’t the main target on the play but alertly caught a tipped ball in the endzone for a 13-yard major with 8:01 to play, and to Turner for a 13-yard catch and run with 59 seconds on the clock. Knott converted both TDs.
Strecker credited a stout defence that stopped the Warriors on a couple of key third downs and registered more than five sacks for giving the offence the ball in decent field position.
“The offence finally got it going in the last five minutes of the first half. That’s when Cory started to feel a little more comfortable. Once he got going, that really spread them out and they couldn’t control him,” Strecker said. “When we put Greg in (the backfield) and started pounding the ball inside that sort of opened it up again for Cory on the outside. He started to feel more comfortable with his rolls, guys started making catches and we started to score points.”
Knott, 17, wants to go out with a bang with the Blues – a Miles contender after going 3-5 in the Carr last year – in his last year of high school football.
“I’m with all my friends so I really want to have a fun senior year and just do the best I can for these guys and myself and for the coaches. Everyone is putting in a lot of effort and we’re really excited about the season,” said the 2011 Grant Yuzyk Award winner as the most outstanding junior in the metro league when the Blues won the premier title in Paul Kane’s inaugural football season.
The Blues will now buckle down for Thursday’s grudge match against the St. Albert High Skyhawks in the only Battle of St. Albert this year. Kickoff is 5 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park. Admission is $5.
“It’s always fun to have both schools out there. It’s always a big crowd and we’re excited to play them,” said Knott, who chose his words carefully to describe the upcoming clash against the 2012 Carr finalists and Tier III provincial silver medalists.
Pride is on the line for the Blues after losing 14-10 last year and 15-0 in the first tilt in 2011 since the formation of the Paul Kane football program after PK served as a feeder school for the Skyhawks’ junior and senior teams.
“It’s just another game, which it is, and it’s only two points but it’s our crosstown rivals and we’ve never beaten them and we’ve never scored more than 10 points on them,” Strecker said. “They have a hell of a quarterback in Keith (Zyla) and if we don’t control him then it could be a very long day for us. We have to limit his runs and cover his receivers.”
Strecker stressed the Skyhawks will be a tougher foe than the Warriors, last year’s Gilfillan conference finalists in the Edmonton public league.
“They’re going to present more of a challenge than Wagner’s offence. We’re going to see more of a balanced attack from St. Albert High so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”