Categories: Local Sports

Tough test for Storm

St. Albert Storm running back Robert Blunden is wrapped up by a pair of tacklers during Tuesday's practice at the Riel Park turf field. Today at 4 p.m. the Storm (1-0-1) host the Edmonton Mustangs (3-0) in midget spring league action.

To be the best you have to beat the best, and today the St. Albert Storm can prove they are the real deal against the undefeated Edmonton Mustangs.

Kick-off is 4 p.m. at the Riel Park turf field against last year’s tier I champions in midget spring league football.

“They’re probably going to be our toughest competitors,” said centre Zach Piercey. “We’re not going into it thinking we’re going to win easily. We’re going into it thinking that we have to give it our best and hopefully we’ll be well prepared.”

In three wins the Mustangs outscored the opposition 72-30. The Storm are 1-0-1, with two touchdowns and one Robert Blunden field goal while giving up two converted TDs.

“In the jamboree [April 2 controlled scrimmages at Spruce Grove] we beat them so I’m pretty sure we’re going to do pretty good against them but we still need to put more points up, for sure,” Blunden said.

Last week his 20-yard field goal following Nathan Mitchell’s interception in the third quarter was the game breaker in the 9-7 win against the Parkland Predators (1-2) in Spruce Grove.

“It was just a regular field goal but I felt pretty nervous. I was worried they were going to come through and block it so that was kind of scary but I just hit it and it went in,” said Blunden.

His convert try after Nathan Pytel’s rushing major in the second quarter was blocked after an illegal procedure penalty wiped out the first point-after attempt that would have tied the score.

“It was a good game but we left a lot of points on the field though. We had a lot of problems within ourselves, not so much with them but things we have to work out with our team,” Piercey said. “Overall, though, we did pretty good and I was pretty proud of some of the people I was playing with.”

Piercey, a six-foot-two, 250-pound enforcer in the trenches, anchored a rough and tumble offensive line that allowed Blunden, Pytel and Kyle Dupperon to gobble up tons of yardage.

“They were doing awesome. They were making their blocks big and whoever was our fullback was killing their linebackers and we were getting through pretty good for yardage,” Blunden said.

After surrendering a long touchdown pass the Storm buckled down defensively. Mitchell’s second pick of the game with nine seconds left on the clock, and Parkland threatening from inside the Storm’s 30 yard line, was the fourth turnover by the defence.

Hulking defensive end Adam Sturgess also blocked his third punt in two games.

Early in the fourth quarter, Parkland’s quarterback left the game after getting drilled by linebacker Ryan Shorten.

Leading up to Mitchell’s pick of the game, a holding penalty nullified a 65-yard TD run by Parkland.

“They’re a tough competitor, that’s why it felt good to get the win,” Piercey said. “In this league with the amount of games that we play we have to win basically every game to do good, so we didn’t want to lose.”

The season opener for the Storm in the tier I/II division was the 7-7 draw against the Battle River Shock in a penalty-plagued affair April 9.

“A tie is like a loss is the way we thought of it,” Piercey said. “We progressed a lot as a team since that game. We played more within our own heads against the Shock. A lot of us kind of lost our heads in that game. There was penalties [against Parkland]but it wasn’t roughness or anything like that, it was just a lot of mistakes like holding.”

Piercey, 17, is a valuable returning player from last year’s tier II championship team. The Grade 11 Paul Kane High School student played for the St. Albert High Skyhawks in 2010 and the junior Hawks in Grade 10. This year he will line up for the first Paul Kane football team in school history.

“I really enjoy playing for the Storm. It’s nice to have new coaches and have different perspectives on the game with Bellerose, Paul Kane and SACHS coaches. I have nothing against any of my coaches [at SACHS]but I love all the coaches at Bellerose and it’s nice to get a chance to be on their side of the field for a bit,” said Piercey, who filled in at various spots on the Storm’s O-line last year and was primarily a guard with the Skyhawks.

He is among several Storm players wearing the new bright blue helmets of the Paul Kane Blues.

“It’s kind of a pride factor wearing them. Everyone is proud to be a part of the new program. It’s nice to show that we are a team that actually has some good players and it’s nice to showcase that these players are playing for Paul Kane. Hopefully we’ll do well in the high school season,” Piercey said. “It’s great for football in St. Albert to have a third team. I like it but it’s hard to say goodbye to all the people at SACHS. It was a fun time over there but we’re all happy to be starting something new. We’re planning on being competitive and having fun with it.”

The Storm’s line-up of Grade 9, 10 and 11 players includes first-year midgets like Blunden, a Grade 11 Bellerose Bulldog with an accurate right foot to split the uprights.

“It’s pretty fun. I should’ve done it more before when I could’ve,” said the Team Alberta rugby player who competed at the national age group championships last year and recently took part in a sevens’ tournament in Las Vegas.

Blunden, 16, was a stalwart outside-centre who handled the kicking duties for the Bulldogs, last year’s metro Edmonton city conference champions. He also showed his moxie at hooker for the U16 provincial team.

“I like football and rugby. Football is fun because there is a lot more glory in it but rugby is more constant so you have to work harder.”

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