TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Running back Sam Esler (centre) of the Crocus Plainsmen tries to break through the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen defensive line during the Plainsmen’s home opener in the Winnipeg High School Football League at the Crocus field on Thursday.
The Crocus Plainsmen’s first game in the Winnipeg High School Football League’s John Potter (AAA) Division was not one the players would like to remember.
The Plainsmen had -22 yards of total offence as they fell 39-2 to the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen in their season opener at Crocus Plains on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Neelin Spartans beat the Fort Frances Muskies 30-0 in their Andy Currie (A) Division game yesterday. The Vincent Massey Vikings host the Sisler Spartans in their season opener today at 4:30 p.m.
Crocus’s offence was plagued by a rough afternoon from the team’s offensive line. Murdoch MacKay left itself exposed deep with its safety playing in the box, but the Plainsmen struggled to give quarterback Matthew Mott enough time to find a receiver, and they weren’t much better trying to open up holes for the running game.
"They were in the backfield all game long," Crocus head coach Kevin Boyd said. "I think they got into the young guys’ heads and they didn’t play like they have, that’s for sure. There’s going to be a lot of sled work next week."
While Crocus returned a lot of players on offence, the one spot it lacked veterans was on the offensive line. Logan Boyd and Cody Mauws, both Grade 11s, are the only returning players, and Boyd felt that inexperience was part of the problem.
Sam Esler led the Plainsmen offence with five yards rushing, while Mott gained one on the ground. Mott went 0-for-6 passing with an interception.
The inability of the Crocus offence to move the ball made for a long day for the defence. The Plainsmen were able to keep it close early, trailing 7-2 at the half, but fatigue set in after that and the Clansmen ran over the Plainsmen defence.
"The first half went really, really well for us. We were just down five," said Crocus safety Colton Swallow, who led the team with seven defensive tackles and had another on special teams. "The second half, we kind of lost our edge and our fire and it didn’t go our way. … It was tiring for sure and then halftime and we started throwing in our subs."
Lucas Neil-Woods added five tackles for Crocus, while Seth Black had a tackle and an interception. Shea Godfrey had 91 return yards, with 44 coming on three punt returns and 47 more on four kickoff returns.
Despite a lopsided score, Swallow remains confident the Plainsmen can be competitive in the Potter Division and expects a better effort when they host the Oak Park Raiders next Thursday at 5 p.m.
"We can definitely compete with AAA teams; we showed it in the first half," he said. "We just need to start getting our fire back in the second half. We kind of showed we got a little tired there and we need to do a little more conditioning and we’ll definitely be able to compete with them."
Spartans 30 Muskies 0
At the Vincent Massey field, Brock Hiltner ran 16 times for 170 yards and hauled in two passes for 22 yards, including a 15-yarder that he took to the end zone, as Neelin won its season opener. Dayton Black was 9-for-11 passing for 145 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, while Joe Waters caught four of those passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Lane Tufts supplied the Spartans’ other touchdown with a 68-yard interception return.
Jordan Knott led the Neelin defence with seven tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble, while Nate Unger had four tackles and a pick, and Justin Mulvaney added four tackles and a forced fumble.
The Spartans have a bye next week before returning to action on Sept. 18 when they host the Elmwood Giants.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2014