Neelin’s Quinton Hunter intercepts a pass in Thursday's game vs. Portage (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Neelin Spartans running back Brock Hiltner looks for a hole in the Portage Trojans defence in Thursday’s Winnipeg High School Football League game played at Crocus Plains. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The Neelin Spartans refuse to let a shortage of players prevent them from having success on the football field.
Despite having only 28 players on their roster, the Spartans improved to 2-1 in the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Kas Vidruk (AA) Division with a 17-6 win over the Portage Trojans on Thursday at the Crocus Plains football field.
"It’s tremendous," said Neelin running back and linebacker Brock Hiltner. "We came into the season undermanned and it’s huge for us to come out and get over .500 and keep the ball rolling."
Neelin came out firing right off the bat against Portage by pooching the opening kickoff high in the air and recovering it 15 yards down the field. Nick Ukleja got the Spartans on the board a few minutes later with a five-yard run.
Neelin strung some drives together, but struggled to score for the rest of the half, managing only a conceded safety midway through the second quarter. But Dustyn Lamont gave the team the boost they needed early in the third quarter when he ran 71 yards for a touchdown. A Joe Waters punt single and a pair of converts by Sam Waters rounded out the scoring.
Things may have been a little bit better for Neelin had Lamont been able to play for the full game, but he left in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return.
"Dustyn you just have to say ‘Go get a touchdown’ and he’ll find a way," Neelin head coach Robert Cullen said. "It doesn’t matter what it is. Last week against Miles Mac he took it 67 yards and he was tackled four times but he spun out of everything and got in the end zone. He’s a fabulous ball player, I just hope he’s OK.
"… He’s got so much heart and desire and tenacity and all he wants to do is be out there and be a baller and he does it on both sides of the ball. He just says ‘What do you want me to do now?’"
Hiltner spent a lot of time in Neelin’s offensive backfield, racking up 62 yards on the ground, and made 6 1/2 tackles on defence. Joe Waters was 7-for-10 passing for 62 yards with one interception.
Quinton Hunter picked off three passes on defence, while Nate Unger had four tackles and assisted on two others.
Cullen feels a little concerned about how long his team can keep up its winning ways with such a short bench, but he credits his players’ dedication for their success.
"The kids’ desire and heart to go out and play the sport of football, that’s what it is," he said. "You give me 15 solid bodies that want to play and we’ll be a solid team. We may be tired at the end, and you can tell by looking at some of those guys by how battered and bruised they are and tired."
Lancers 23 Vikings 0
Meanwhile at Vincent Massey, the host Vikings fell to 0-3 in the John Potter (AAA) Division with a 23-0 loss to the Dakota Lancers.
The Vikings trailed 9-0 at the half and struggled to find someone to replace running backs Matt Bryant and Kirk Dechka. Bryant, who rushed 10 times for 51 yards, left the game with a neck injury, while Dechka left with an arm injury.
Steven Gresl filled in with three rushes for 23 yards. Thomas Moroz was 7-for-22 passing for 70 yards. He connected with Jace Mills three times for 39 yards.
Gresl had nine tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble on defence. Connor Mills added eight tackles, one sack and recovered a fumble, while Rory Ponto had six tackles and an interception.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 20, 2013