Clarke Park – Losing by only six points to the team to beat in the bantam playoffs was a moral victory for the St. Albert Fury.
They pushed the undefeated Edmonton Chargers towards the brink of elimination before bowing out 20-14 in Saturday’s tier I semifinal in the Capital District Minor Football Association.
“I don’t think anyone was expecting us to be so close because they’re such a dominant team,” said speedster Seth Waselenchuk. “For us to come out here and really give them a challenge like no other St. Albert team has, we did really well. I know we worked really hard to try and beat them today.”
In league play, when first place in the Johnny Bright Division was on the line, the Chargers overpowered the mistake prone and penalty-riddled Fury 48-14.
“We just had more confidence coming into this game. After beating the Black Raiders [in the playoffs]we knew we can stay with every other team because we were working hard the whole time,” Waselenchuk said of 26-20 win over the 5-3 Edmonton Black Raiders in the tier I/II quarter-final.
The Chargers led 7-6 at halftime and 14-6 after three quarters.
“We had a good first half. Our defence held our offence in there for a while,” Waselenchuk said. “In the second half we stayed with them the whole time and then the last couple of drives they managed a few lucky plays. We almost had them but not quite.”
The Chargers recovered their own short kick-off to start the game, but quickly coughed up the ball on offence and Nick Cowan fell on the fumble. The teams spent the rest of the quarter trading punt. Runs by Andrew Johnson and Waselenchuk helped the Fury move the ball. John Brouse also made some key tackles on defence.
The Fury also survived a couple of turnovers with the game still scoreless.
In the second quarter, the Chargers pulled off a third-down gamble for big yardage, Waselenchuk’s tackle at the Fury 13 saving a touchdown. Two plays later, on first and goal at the two, Brouse knocked the ball loose and the Fury recovered it in the end zone.
Long TD run
After the turnover, on second and 18 from the 12, quarterback Shaydon Philip flipped the ball to Waselenchuk in the backfield and the slippery slotback motored 98 yards to open the scoring with 4:43 left until halftime. The convert was blocked.
“I was expecting to get caught in the backfield because the last time we played them they held me in check pretty good,” said the Grade 9 William D. Cuts student. “Their end came in and wasn’t expecting the counter. I saw the edge and their cornerback jumped outside and I had open field.”
After the ensuing kick off the Chargers methodically marched the ball from their 29. On third and seven, a facemask penalty against the Fury moved the Chargers down to the 14. Five plays later, on third and goal from the five, the Chargers scored with 10 seconds remaining. The convert was good.
Two minutes into the third quarter Rory O’Donovan recovered a fumble on a third-down gamble by the Chargers at their 48 but the Fury was unable to cash the turnover into points.
The next time on offence the Chargers capped off a 45-yard drive with an eight-yard TD. The convert left the Fury trailing by eight.
As the game wound down the teams took turns turning the ball over while coming up with big defensive plays. Brouse, Johnson, Cowan and Joshua Coogan contributed to the Fury’s defensive charge.
With 3:44 to play the Fury blocked a punt and took possession at the Chargers’ 37. But on first down, Philip was picked off at the 29. After a couple of first downs, the Chargers elected to punt for a single point from the Fury 30 on third and 10. The ball bounced into the end zone and when Waselenchuk picked it up, he was hit, the ball was dislodged and the Chargers recovered it for the TD with 45 seconds to play. The convert was blocked.
“I think their guy got his helmet on the ball and it popped out of my hands,” Waselenchuk said.
Down to the wire
The Fury refused to quit after the TD despite the 14-point deficit. Jay Stoneham jumped on a short kick-off by the Chargers at midfield, then on first down Johnson and Anthony Borrelli combined on a 29-yard gain to the 26. On the next play, Philip hooked up with Dylan Shorten for a TD strike with 10 seconds to go. The Fury then added two points on Philip’s pass to Waselenchuk.
A short kick-off by the Fury was gobbled up by the Chargers on the second last play of the game.
The victory by the Chargers was their eighth in a row. They were also the only team to defeat the 6-2 Fury this year.
“At the start of the season I honestly wasn’t expecting to do as well as we did. We all just put our heads down and did what we were supposed to do at each position and that got us closer to success,” Waselenchuk, 14.
Last year the Fury fell 33-7 to the Chargers in the tier II final after both teams finished with 4-6 records.
“We had more guys doing their jobs how they were supposed to do them, whereas last year we were all trying to do other people’s jobs,” said Waselenchuk, who also saw action at cornerback and safety against the Chargers.