The Sturgeon Composite High School Spirits and the St. Albert Catholic High School Skyhawks have only each other left to beat as the two teams meet in the Edmonton Metro Athletics Gilfillan division championship football game at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The teams earned their spots in the championship with big semifinal wins during a double-header on Thursday, Oct. 27, at Larry Olexiuk Field.
Playing first, the Spirits crushed the defending champion Lillian Osborne Legends, 43-0. The Legends were the only team to score on the Spirits all season when they put up a meagre 10 points in a game in early October, which the Spirits won 35-10.
In the semifinal, the mighty Spirits defence once again came ready to play as linebacker Josh Konanz made back-to-back tackles to force a Legends punt on their first offensive drive. Spirits linebacker Riley Mulligan managed to block the Legends punt attempt, giving Sturgeon excellent field position.
A slow-to-start Spirit offence couldn't capitalize on the following drive, and turned the ball over on downs. However, on the Legends' very next offensive play, the Spirits forced a fumble and defensive end Adam Dahoy recovered the ball, scampering into the end zone for the game's first score.
The Legends, who had the best regular-season offensive statistics in the division, attempted to play to their strengths by moving the ball through the air. Legends quarterback Parham Haidary found his favourite receiver Jack Heath for a few short completions before another fumble was recovered by the Spirits.
Back on offence, the Spirits still struggled to get any momentum going, but a solid 20-plus-yard catch-and-run by receiver Keavan Painchaud got the team within field goal distance. However, the Spirits ran a fake kick and what looked like an easy touchdown pass was dropped by a wide-open Spirits receiver, turning the ball over on downs.
The Legends nearly tied the game two drives later but a 30-yard receiving touchdown was called back for offensive pass interference. On the following play Mulligan earned his second sack of the half and the Legends turned the ball over on downs.
The Spirits moved quickly up the field with just two minutes to play in the half before a pass by quarterback Chris Ioanidis was intercepted by the Legends. At the end of the play, after the Legends player who made the interception was tackled forcefully by Konanz near the Spirits sidelines, the Legends were called for an objectionable conduct penalty for taunting.
The Spirits defence, which doesn't need much motivation to dominate a game, forced a fumble on the following play. With seconds remaining in the half, Konanz managed to carry the ball in for a touchdown, putting the Spirits up by 14 at halftime.
After the break, the momentum picked up right where it left off, as the first play after the kickoff was an interception by Spirits defensive back Devlin Fremont, who took the ball to the Legends one-yard line. Spirits captain Stefan Visscher ran for a touchdown on the following play.
Later in the third quarter, down by 22 with a little over 15 minutes to play, the desperate Legends tried a third-down gamble instead of punting at their own 34-yard line, but Spirits linebacker Brody Panchyshyn sacked the quarterback.
The following Spirits drive was capped off by a nine-yard touchdown run for Konanz.
From there, the Legends fell apart. The rest of the game included another blocked punt for the Spirits by Mulligan, which was immediately followed by an Ioanidis touchdown pass to Dusty Campbell. Subsequently, another Spirits interception, this time by Painchaud, was followed by a touchdown run by Campbell.
After the game, Spirits coach Chad Hill had high praise for his players and summed up the game, "the [Spirits] know they can go out and dictate the pace of the game offensively and defensively, and that’s what we did.”
The Skyhawks took on the M.E. LaZerte Voyageurs in the second game of the double-header, and St. Albert came out firing on all cylinders.
On the Skyhawks' first offensive drive, running back Dominic Savinkoff collected 44 yards before receiver Mason Clayton appeared to score on a 30-yard touchdown pass. The play was negated by a penalty, however, and the Skyhawks were forced to punt.
The Voyageurs ran into bad luck early, as a third-down punt attempt late in the first quarter unravelled when the snap sailed over the punter's head. Skyhawks player Adam Kociuba recovered the ball on the Voyageurs' 12-yard line.
Skyhawks quarterback Nico van Berkel then proceeded to connect with Ethan Vandegriend for a five-yard touchdown to end the first quarter.
The Skyhawks had another chance to score early in the second quarter but missed the field goal, keeping the game at 7-0.
The Voyageurs looked poised to score on a mid-quarter drive, but Skyhawks defensive back Baraka Goode made a diving play to break up a touchdown pass and keep M.E. LaZerte off the board.
On their next drive, van Berkel and Vandegriend connected again, this time for a 60-yard catch-and-run to give St. Albert excellent field position. The drive culminated in a van Berkel touchdown pass to Savinkoff, putting the Skyhawks up 15-0 to end the half.
In his halftime pep talk, Skyhawks coach Sam Johnson told his players they had "to earn the right to play one more game," and the second half proved the players took that to heart.
Mason Clayton came up with an interception early in the third quarter, and the offence later capitalized with a 30-yard reception by Jakob Reiniger and another receiving touchdown for Vandegriend.
The following Voyageurs drive ended with another Skyhawks interception, this time by Jaden Clancy. Unsurprisingly, the Skyhawks offence again capitalized on the great field position when van Berkel threw another touchdown pass to Vandegriend.
In the fourth quarter, the Skyhawks defence intercepted the Voyageurs quarterback yet again when Maddux Orkusz plucked the ball out of the air after it glanced off the fingertips of the intended receiver. The turnover led to a Skyhawks field goal.
The Voyageurs got on the board prior to the game ending thanks to a six-yard run.
The game's final score was 34-6.
The Spirits and the Skyhawks will now play in what should be a very competitive matchup in the Gilfillan Division championship game on Nov. 5 at Commonwealth Stadium, starting at 12:30 p.m.
The winner of the championship game will move on to the provincial tournament.
In the Miles Division, the Paul Kane Blues will also being playing at Commonwealth on Nov. 5, as they're set to take on St. Francis Xavier for the division Championship. The Blues play at 3 p.m.