Fury whips up playoff berths

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St. Albert bantam team qualifies for Tier 1 league final and provincial semifinals

The Fury are going to places no St. Albert bantam team has visited before.

Sunday the Fury plays the Sherwood Park Rams for the Tier 1 championship in the Capital District Minor Football Association before tackling the provincial playoffs.

“We’re the first St. Albert team to ever do this so we made history,” said Colton Meronyk, a Grade 9 running back and linebacker for the 6-1-1 Fury. “It’s great motivation for the team. We can honestly win if we try hard enough.”

Game time against the Rams is 2:30 p.m. at Clarke Park and admission is $5.

Since the CDMFA formation in 1992, the Fury reached the Tier 1 semifinals in 1993, 2003 and 2011 but never huddled up in the final.

The winner hosts the southern Alberta champion (Brooks Roadrunners or Cardston Jr. Cougars) in the Tier 1 provincial semifinals Nov. 9 and the loser travels to play the Calgary bantam champion (Calgary Grey Cowboys or Calgary Navy Cowboys) the same day. The Football Alberta final is Nov. 16 in Calgary.

“It’s awesome for us as a team to do what we’re doing,” said Keaton Zaychkowsky, a Grade 9 running back, safety and kicker. “Last year we didn’t do as good (3-4 as Tier 3 semifinalists) as we are this year and we’re kind of proving a point to all of St. Albert of what we can do and we’ve been doing that over the last few months. Our skill has gotten way better than it was at the start.”

The Fury ranked among the top offensive and defensive teams in the bantam Tier 1/2 division, averaging 29.7 points scored and 19.4 against in league play.

“We practice a lot and we focus hard. Our leaders, our captains, motivate everybody,” Meronyk said.

“Our offence is really good. We can score. We can also stop teams when we need to,” Zaychkowsky added.

Despite the team’s lofty accomplishment, the Fury can’t look past the Rams with provincials on the horizon.

“We need to focus on what we’re doing now and just finish the game that we’re preparing for this weekend and then we can worry about provincials,” said Zaychkowsky, 14.

The Rams (8-0) were the division leaders on both sides of the ball while averaging 43.5 points and only 7.7 against.

They overpowered the Fury 54-27 Oct. 6 in St. Albert on the strength of seven touchdowns by tailback Chuba Hubbard. The loss ended a four-game winning streak.

“He is mostly speed and if we can get to him with a few hits quick I think we can take control of the game,” said Zaychkowsky, an Ă©cole Secondaire Saint Marguerite d’Youville student.

In the first half Hubbard ran wild for four TDs, including three in the last three minutes, aided by two Fury turnovers, as the Rams led 27-6 at the break.

After a 76-yard TD bomb from quarterback Sam Cuciz to Zaychkowsky, Hubbard returned the following kickoff to pay dirt to make it 34-13.

In the fourth quarter, and the Rams in front 34-27, Hubbard pushed across two more TDs to seal the deal.

“He is just an all-around good player. I know him from track and he’s one of the fastest kids in Canada. It’s crazy,” Meronyk said. “Without him they’re still a good team but we can easily beat them.”

Hubbard’s outside speed gave the Fury fits.

“We’re not that good at getting outside fast enough,” said Zaychkowsky, 14. “After playing them it helps with angles a lot more. As a safety taking an angle is basically the biggest part of being a safety so if I take the wrong angle too steep he’ll cut in if I go in too much and he’ll beat me.”

Meronyk, 14, said the Fury will know what to expect now from the Rams.

“We’re practicing on offence and defence what to do against them and see how we can get touchdowns,” said the Vincent J. Maloney student. “With our special teams we didn’t know what we were doing and we had to practice that.”

Both teams are coming off decisive playoff wins: 42-14 Rams against the Sherwood Park Wolverines (3-5) and 35-14 Fury against the Edmonton Chargers (5-2-1).

In the last game before the semifinals the Fury blew a 30-8 lead in the fourth quarter and settled for a 30-all draw against the Chargers.

“We could’ve easily won against the Chargers, but we just started playing really bad after the third quarter,” Meronyk said.

In the rematch Meronyk and Zaychkowsky combined for 356 yards on 25 carries. The big Z led the way with 198 yards on 17 handoffs for TD runs of three, 53 and three yards. Meronyk was no slouch with 158 yards, including a 76-yard TD romp.

The deadly backfield duo alternates between tailback and fullback. Zaychkowsky is also a favourite target of Cuciz. He caught two TD passes from Cuciz in the loss to the Rams.

“It’s just the different lanes we take throughout the plays,” said Meronyk, the Fury’s top tackler in the semifinal with 10. “Our blocks are amazing and we have really good receivers who can block good too.”

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.