Clarke Park – The St. Albert High Skyhawks ended a season to forget in Friday’s 46-point shutout loss in high school football.
“We had a great group of young boys and we had higher expectations for them,” a glum-looking head coach Sam Johnson said after the Skyhawks were mauled by the Bev Facey Falcons in the Carr conference semifinals. “We didn’t play offensively specifically to the level we wanted to, but the boys have great heart and never stopped fighting. We’re very proud of them.”
The fourth loss in five games in which the Skyhawks failed to score a touchdown was also the third game during that stretch they were held pointless.
“You’re not going to win many games if you don’t score touchdowns,” Johnson said with a straight face. “We have to go back to the drawing board. We tried to do some different things this year and obviously we weren’t as successful as we wanted to be. We’re going to take a week off and then we’re going to get right back at it. We’ll review all of our game films and break them down series by series, play by play and see where we’re not getting it done and the 2011 Skyhawks will be ready to play.”
This year’s edition of Skyhawks will be remembered not by their 4-5 overall record but as the first team to lose the Battle of St. Albert to the Bellerose Bulldogs. When asked if the historic 7-0 defeat sent the Skyhawks into a tailspin, Johnson replied: “No, I don’t think any specific loss sent us in a tailspin but it sure didn’t help, that’s all.
“It was a big loss. It was a big game for everybody. However, like I said earlier, it was a stumbling block on our road to the ultimate goal. It might have been bad timing for us too with the California trip [to play the Lutheran Lancers of Orange County, Calif. during the bye week]and then coming back and having such a big game. We also happened to hit the hard part of our schedule with Bellerose and Salisbury [25-3 loss; 3-3 at halftime] and Facey [51-0 in the last game before the playoffs] and that’s tough to have three teams to play bang, bang, bang like that.”
Seeded fourth in the metro Edmonton playoffs at 2-3 (42 PF/100 PA), the Skyhawks needed overtime to outlast the fifth-place Austin O’Brien Crusaders 35-28 to kick off the playoffs. Three days later, the Skyhawks lined up against the Falcons (6-0 league; 9-0 overall), fresh off a first-round bye. Ranked second provincially in tier I (school population 1,250-plus), the three-time reigning Carr champions tacked up 15 points in the first quarter and at halftime held a commanding 32-point lead. Two converted touchdowns in the third quarter rounded out the scoring.
“They’re silky smooth and you’ve got to play flawless ball to stay in the game,” Johnson said.
The first offensive series by the Falcons ended with a pick by Brandon Jennings and his short gain put the Skyhawks at their 26. After the Skyhawks went two-and-out, Falcons’ quarterback Taylor Yaremchuk picked apart the secondary for TD passes of nine and 37 yards. The second score was a great sideline catch and run behind single coverage. The Skyhawks also gave up a point in the end zone on the kick off after the first TD.
Before the quarter ended, running back Spencer Duff was picked off at the Skyhawks’ 39. The Falcons would go on to score from the one in the opening minute of the second quarter. A face-masking infraction after a pass completion against the Skyhawks allowed the Falcons to huddle up first and goal at the one.
After the TD and leading by 22, the Falcons recovered their chip kick at the Skyhawks’ 32. They would settle for a 15-yard field goal, as the ball went in off the upright.
A fumble recovery by Andre Leduc at the Facey 46 off a bubbled punt return by the Falcons with 8:07 left until the break gave the Skyhawks good field position, but once again they went two-and-out.
With under five minutes left in the half, and the Skyhawks looking at second and 11 at the Facey 43, Mike Spagnolo caught a pass cutting towards the middle and gained some good yardage but was flagged for jumping offside on the play. On the next play, quarterback Matteo Sistito was sacked for a big loss and the offensively-challenged Skyhawks had to punt again.
With 22 seconds remaining in the half, the Falcons connected for a 10-yard TD catch.
In the second half the Falcons drove the opening kickoff to pay dirt, capped off by a one-yard run. Their last TD came on a pass play on third and 11 from the Skyhawks’ 19 with 3:34 left until quarter time.
The best Skyhawk in a losing cause was Grade 12 linebacker Tanner Doll. The defensive demon racked up a ton of tackles as the Skyahwks’ defence spent most of the match on the field. In the second half Doll got off some booming punts as Spagnolo’s replacement. He even threw out of punt formation a couple times, including a first-down strike to Duff late in the third quarter. Doll also lined up in the backfield and caught a couple of passes when he wasn’t blocking or taking the odd handoff. He also took a few snaps from centre in the dying minutes and was really firing the ball around the field.
“We did some good things but I thought they out-athleted us,” Johnson said. “The big thing was our boys didn’t lay down. When you get down 32 points it would be easy to fold your tent and go through the motions, but our boys didn’t do that. We’re very proud of them. They played hard all the time.”