Lions clinch first place, look to semifinals
The St. Paul Lions clinched first place and earned a bye into the Wheatland Football League semifinals with a 55-23 victory over the Wainwright Commandos last Thursday.
It was a game to remember for quarterback Brenden McKay. On top of throwing for two touchdowns and kicking a pair of field goals, McKay chose to run with the ball three times during the game, and reached the end zone on all three rushes.
“We’ve been waiting for Brenden to have that breakout game and today he did, running, passing and playing defence. I felt that today he put the team on his back and ensured we would finish first,” said Lions Coach Todd Tanasichuk. “He is getting hot at the right time”
McKay was thrilled about Thursday’s result, but wasn’t willing to take credit for the Lions’ on-field success, as he pointed directly to the strength of his offensive line.
“I have to give props to the O-line. They played fantastic, especially Brady Coutts, he was pulling on those plays so I just followed him in and he led me to the end zone,” McKay said of his performance on Thursday. “Right now we’re looking at the next game, we just want to win.”
Tanasichuk added that it was a welcome sight to see not just his quarterback, but all of his players show up to Thursday’s game ready to compete to the fullest.
“It was excellent to see the guys come in with the right frame of mind today . . . They came ready to play and I’ve got no complaints. It was a great effort,” said Tanasichuk, adding that it was especially nice to be able to give the team’s Grade 10 players some extensive time on the field after going up 48-8 at the half. “We had a lot of great play out of our rookies today . . . I’m very happy with our Grade 10s, they’ve been very patient, they’ve been great team guys. It’s not an easy thing when you’re not playing very much and today they got to play lots, and that makes me feel just great.”
Liam Krys was one rookie who had a big impact on the outcome of Thursday’s game, as he stepped into the running back position for the first time since he took off his Bengals helmet last season, and rushed for a touchdown in the first half.
“The intensity is way higher in high school,” said Krys. “Guys have way better technique in tackling and it’s a faster game so it’s a little bit harder to get those yards but the blocking was great, and that’s why I had success.”
Dave Thomson also rushed for one touchdown on the night, while Patrick Dion received a touchdown pass and spent some time throwing from the quarterback position, and Brian Boucher made a leaping catch in the end zone for his first touchdown of the season.
“It was great to see a guy like Brian Boucher come out and make some plays,” said Tanasichuk. “Brian’s had a struggle this year a little bit, and today we needed him and he came in and played great.”
The Lions will now have the next week off, as they have earned a bye into the semifinals with the team’s first place finish in the standings.
“We’re going to prepare for our semifinal game. Whoever finishes in fourth, we’re going to plan as if they’re going to beat that fifth place team. If it doesn’t happen then we’ll be scrambling the next week, but it gives us an extra week to prepare,” said Tanasichuk.
“We’re going to rest a little bit, the boys are going to get a chance to heal up, and we’ll practice. We’ll work on our timing and maybe implement some new things, but I think the biggest thing about it is that we get that week to heal.”
McKay added that he and the Lions feel confident moving forward, as long as they stick to the game plan that has found them success to this point.
“The mentality has got to be just to play our football,” he said. “Do our jobs, and play St. Paul football.”
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