Lions open season at 1-1
The St. Paul Lions opened the 2013 Wheatland Football League season with a close 30-28 victory over the Lloydminster Barons on Aug. 30, but the defending champions fell just short of a comeback in their first meeting with the Cold Lake Royals, 32-25, on Friday.
“It’s a rivalry. They were definitely ready to play us. They were hungry, they were focused. We’ve got to be better,” said Lions coach Todd Tanasichuk, adding that the comeback attempt showed a great deal of determination from the St. Paul players. “For sure, that was big, and it showed heart on our part, but we’re disappointed obviously, we never like to lose to Grand Centre.”
With 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lions were in a 32-10 hole, but continued to battle it out, and narrowed the game to within seven points on two touchdowns with only seconds to play. The Lions then continued their race against the clock, recovering a perfectly placed onside kick by Dylon Machura to earn a final attempt at tying the game.
Unfortunately, quarterback Brendan McKay’s Hail Mary attempt to Brian Boucher in the end zone was picked off by a Cold Lake player, snuffing out the comeback and bringing an end to another thrilling chapter in the long-standing Lions-Royals rivalry.
“It just shows that we have a lot of heart and we never give up,” said McKay, adding that the Lions-Royals rivalry always promises a close game. “Every game keeps getting more intense. Every time they lose, every time we lose, the rivalry gets even more, we all just want to win.”
Dave Thomson and Dakota Boucher led the team in tackles with four each, while Taylor Joly led the team in rushing with 109 yards on 19 carries and one touchdown. McKay led the passing game, throwing for 181 yards on 10 completions, and wide receiver Darrell Stranger picked up 87 yards on four receptions.
“We’ve got two really good receivers this year and our passing game has really improved form last year,” said McKay. “We’re more balanced out instead of just a running game.”
The Royals will return to St. Paul for the Under the Lights game on Sept. 27, and the Lions will be looking for revenge in what running back Lance Ouellette called one of the most exciting games of each season.
“Under the Lights is really exciting. That’s probably the limit break of excitement right there, besides probably the championship game. It’s going to be a really hard game for them and for us, we’re just going to have to play our best to be able to win that,” said Ouellette, who delivered a thunderous hit to drive up the moral on the Lions bench in the second half of Friday’s game, and drove in a touchdown with 20 seconds on the clock to keep his team in the game until the last play.
“I just think that everyone was determined to get that one touchdown. We just ran a play that we knew would work, we had it ready to go and we practiced it hard. We ran that fly and got that nice touchdown because the holes were open.”
Tanasichuk said that the team will be looking to defeat the Royals by eight points or more in the Under the Lights rematch to jump ahead in the season series.
“(Friday’s comeback attempt) does give us an opportunity to still take the series. If we can beat them by eight points then we take the series,” said Tanasichuk. “It gives us hope compared to having to beat them by three touchdowns.”
The Lions will now prepare for the 2013 home opener against the Bonnvyille Voyageurs (0-2) at St. Paul Regional Football Field on Friday at 5 p.m.
“We’ve got to bounce back, our boys better understand that. We have to have a very good football game, it’s not just about the win, we have to play good football all the way through,” said Tanasichuk.
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