The Neelin Spartans have already made history this season, and they’re looking to make a little more tonight.
So far, Spartans running back Dylan Minshull has set a new Winnipeg High School Football League Andy Currie Division record with 1,430 rushing yards in the regular season.
Neelin has also reached its first ever WHSFL final in any division, and will face the Steinbach Sabres tonight at Canad Inns Stadium at 7:30.
While the Spartans are proud of what they’ve accomplished so far, they know their work isn’t done just yet and they are fully focused on winning their first Winnipeg league championship.
"It’s a good honour for the boys to get to this position," Neelin head coach Robert Cullen said. "Now they just need to go out and execute and take it to where they want to be."
The Spartans know it won’t be easy to claim their first division title since joining the Winnipeg league.
The Sabres posted a 7-1 regular season record and are the only team to beat the Spartans (6-1) this season. That game came in the third week of the season when Neelin was shut out 28-0.
Minshull believes the Spartans have greatly improved since then — creating better offensive plays and tightening up defensively — and doesn’t think anyone will be living in the past when they take to the field tonight.
"There’s always going to be that fear that we didn’t beat them last time, and they shut us out, but I think that now that we have this solid plan, I think we’ve increased our play since last time we played them," Minshull said.
"It should be a great game between us; whoever wants it more. It will come down to the dying seconds."
Cullen believes the key to winning tonight will be establishing a solid ground game that will open up the passing attack, led by quarterback Bryce Keilback.
Defensively, Cullen said if his players — who posted five shutouts this season, including one in the league quarter-finals — stay within the system, they will have a solid chance to win.
Ending this season with a win would have even more of a special meaning to Minshull. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back is in Grade 12 and has played on Neelin’s football team in all four years at the high school.
He, along with the 13 other Grade 12 students on the team, would like nothing better than for their final high school football memory to be celebrating a championship on the Canad Inns turf.
"It would top it off to have that nice season where you set some records and win a championship to share it with your team," he said. "It would be pretty good."
The last Brandon team to win a Winnipeg league title was the Crocus Plainsmen back in 1987.