The St. Albert Fury are gaining momentum towards an undefeated championship season on the bantam gridiron.
The Fury storm into the Tier 3 playoffs with a 7-0 record and a victory Sunday against the Fort Saskatchewan Lightning would propel the team into the Capital District Minor Football Association final next Sunday.
“It would mean everything to win it because we’ve worked so hard all season and that’s what we’ve been shooting for,” said Jared Koziol, a Grade 8 shutdown cornerback and backup quarterback.
Kickoff between the Fury and Lightning is 5:30 p.m. at Fuhr Sports Park in Spruce Grove and admission is $5.
Two weeks ago the Fury blew the Lightning (4-3) away 62-12 at Riel Recreation Park as Grade 9 standout Jesse Stuht shredded the Fort defence for an astonishing six touchdowns and 381 yards on only 10 carries while surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in the sixth game of the season. He also recorded 10 tackles.
“The coach (Martin Quirk) was telling me all week that Fort Sask is going to get a heavy dose of me and I was pretty excited to have the opportunity to touch the ball so many times,” said the Grade 9 quarterback and safety. “My line really made it one heck of an easy job for me. I would just look up and I had open space. They did all the hard work with all grinding in the middle and all I had to do was just run.”
Dwight Kohl was a force at linebacker with 10 tackles and one sack and he also scored a TD.
Stuht, 14, described the Lightning as a respectful team.
“We had a couple of comments from their players saying they had a great game even though they lost. They enjoyed our sportsmanship and we enjoyed theirs,” said the Sir George Simpson student. “They’re a good team to play against.”
The winner will huddle up against the St. Albert 49ers (6-1) or the Wetaskiwin Warriors (5-2) in the Tier 3 final.
In league play the Fury beat the Warriors 32-26 in the season opener and the next week they crushed the 49ers 56-21.
If the moons align properly the Fury and 49ers will go toe-to-toe in the final.
“It would be a fun game. It’s a St. Albert rivalry and it would be for the championship too,” Koziol said.
Last year the Fury finished 6-3-1 overall as the Tier 1 finalist and provincial semifinalist. The Fury were the first St. Albert Minor Football Association bantam team to reach the Tier 1 final since the formation of the CDMFA in 1992 after semifinal losses in 1993, 2003 and 2011. They were also the first bantam team to qualify for Tier 1 provincials. The last SAMFA team to win a provincial bantam title was the 49ers in Tier 2 in 2004.
“We still expected to have a good year after last year and we’ve come along really well,” said Stuht, one of 11 returning players on the roster. “Our strength is the way we are as a team. We work really well together.”
Koziol, 13, credits the team’s camaraderie for its winning record.
“We’ve just bonded as a team over the summer and through the whole season. The second years have really accepted the first years onto the team too,” said the William D. Cuts student.
But to have a talented player like Stuht in the lineup is a luxury most teams don’t have. His 1,140 rushing yards and 17 TDs, in addition to 162 yards passing and three TDs and 180 yards receiving with two TDs, are MVP calibre numbers as the Fury averaged a Tier 3/4 leading 54.5 points per game and a frugal 10.1 against.
“I’ve been in minor football for eight seasons and it’s a great way to finish it off with SAMFA while representing St. Albert,” said Stuht, who will follow the path his older brothers took in playing high school football with the Bellerose Bulldogs, where a jersey with his name on the back is already hanging in head coach Chad Hill’s office.
The secret for Stuht’s success is hard work.
“Every day he tries his best at practice,” said Koziol, the team’s leading passer with 212 yards and two TDs to go with four rushing TDs, plus 16 tackles and a fumble recovery.