Lions reign supreme in nail-biter under the lights
The stands were packed for Saturday night football under the lights in St. Paul and the main event between the Lions and Cold Lake Royals did not disappoint, coming down to the wire in a 34-24 victory for the home team.
“It’s such a big night for these kids. In a way it kind of frazzles their mind a little bit and they almost get too excited, but this is something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” Tanasichuk said.
“Hats off to (Cold Lake) . . . they gave us exactly what we thought they would.”
“It was amazing to get the chance to play under the lights again,” said Lions quarterback Brenden McKay. “Words can’t describe how good this feels to beat Cold Lake at home.”
The game was truly a spectacle under the light, offering hard hitting action with some drama in the final moments.
The Lions built up a 21-0 lead in the opening stages of the game on a pair of touchdowns by Jason Jubinville and a third from Taylor Joly, but the Royals clawed their way back into things with a late push.
After Jubinville made it 27 - 9 by scoring on a 59-yard punt return in the third quarter, Cold Lake put up back-to-back touchdowns to cut the Lions’ lead to three points, setting the stage for a nail-biting conclusion.
With less than five minutes to play, the Royals pushed the pigskin all the way up to the Lions’ goal line, but the defensive line refused to provide a hole, and held them outside the end zone to regain possession.
“You can feel all the momentum against you, and it sure feels like they’re going to score but our boys got tough at the end,” Tanasichuk said.
“We did prepare for the goal line offense of theirs and it’s a good thing that we did because we were able to stuff it.”
Just as momentum seemed to be shifting back in the favor of the Lions, a fumble into the end zone returned the ball to the Royals with a minute left to play and the game on the line.
With seconds ticking down off the clock and the Royals pushing to clinch the game, Lions linebacker Dave Thompson picked off a deep pass attempt and ran it back 50 yards for the game-sealing touchdown. The interception ignited the crowd and the Lions bench.
“Don’t drop it. That was all that was going through my head, just, ‘Don’t drop the ball,’” said Thompson, who also put up nine tackles and a sack in the game.
The game-clinching play spelled the end of another dramatic chapter in the rivalry between St. Paul and Cold Lake, but Tanasichuk said the tension did not come as a surprise.
“Right at the end of the game, I’m thinking ‘Isn’t this bloody typical; it’s always like this.’ We’ve always got to fight tooth and nail to get a victory from these guys,” Tanasichuk said.
Jubinville had another outstanding night on the gridiron, scoring three touchdowns and putting up 399 total yards in the process.
While the match-up was everything fans could have hoped for, the late-game heroics were made possible only by a series of mistakes and penalties that opened the door for the Royals.
The Lions committed three fumbles and an interception, which Tanasichuk says prevented them from generating offense in the second half, and which allowed Cold Lake to fight their way back into the match.
While the Lions appeared more disciplined on the field than they were last week against the Lloydminster Holy Rosary Raiders, penalties were still an issue, and Tanasichuk said he felt they were happening more on one side than the other.
“I actually thought our kids were way more disciplined, especially considering all the things that Cold Lake was able to get away with,” Tanasichuk said in an email following the game, adding he felt St. Paul faced a lot of penalties, while there were calls that weren’t made against Cold Lake.
“Despite the frustration, I felt our boys did a good job of not retaliating.”
The Lions left the field a sore bunch, as Jubinville, Joly, McKay and slot back Dominic Dion all took their time getting up from a few hard hits. Heading into their next game in Bonnyville on Friday at 8:30 p.m., the Lions’ main focus will be getting back to game shape.
“We know that depth is an issue for us,” Tanasichuk said. “If we can be healthy, we’ll be alright and if not, some of our young guys will have to learn how to step in and play in those pressure situations.”
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.