Lions drop Barons to advance to WFL championship game
The St. Paul Lions punched their ticket to the big game with a 22-0 victory over the Lloydminster Barons in St. Paul on Saturday.
The hard fought victory earned the Lions a spot in the Wheatland Football League championship game against the Holy Rosary Raiders.
“It’s our fifth championship game in the last 11 seasons. We have won the previous four,” said Lions Coach Todd Tanasichuk. “We hope to see a big St. Paul crowd come out and support us this game . . . It’s the two division champs so it should be a great game.”
After the first quarter of Saturday’s semifinal solved nothing, Lions running back Taylor Joly broke the game open with a 25-yard run to bring the ball inside the Barons’ 10 yard line, and followed it up with a short touchdown run to give the Lions a 6-0 lead.
“It seemed to take us a half to get back into football mode,” said Tanasichuk. “The first half we played poorly and missed many assignments. We were lucky they didn’t score three touchdowns on two wide open receivers and a possible interception.”
The Lions quickly forced the Barons to punt, and made good use of what little time was left in the first half, as quarterback Brenden McKay called on his own number from St. Paul's 40 yard line, and moved the rock all the way down to the Barons three yard line.
Once in the red zone, McKay put the ball back in Joly's hands, who punched it into the end zone to lift the Lions to a 12-0 lead at the half.
“I think our defense played fantastic,” said McKay, who strained a muscle in his leg in the first half, but played through for the victory. “They didn’t let up at all, they kept the pedal to the metal.”
With an ailing quarterback, the Lions relied on the strong defensive effort that gave the team a 12-0 lead in the first half, and the defiant defensive line once again shut down every drive the Barons could muster.
After forcing another punt and moving the ball to within the Barons' red zone, McKay successfully kicked a field goal to widen the gap to 15-0.
Joly later added his third touchdown of the game to bring the final score to 22-0 for the St. Paul Lions.
“In the second half, we found our footing and played better. Taylor Joly, Brenden McKay and Dylon Machura were our best players,” said Tanasichuk. “Taylor had three touchdowns and Dylon was our most consistent performer . . . Defensively, Dylon and Dave Thomson led the way, but Adam Joly and Clinton Labine also had good games from the defensive line.”
McKay rushed for 154 yards on 10 carries in the game, while Joly had three touchdowns and 112 yards on 20 carries, and Dylon Machura had 66 yards on nine carries.
Machura and Dave Thomson led the Lions’ defence in tackles on the day, as they each recorded seven.
“I did what I had to do,” Thomson said of his defensive performance. “Some games you’ve just got to make the sacrifices that you need to make, and this was one of them.”
The win also marks the first time in Lions history that a group of Grade 12’s have gone their entire Lions career without losing to the Barons.
“They’re a really good team, but the fact that we can show the heart every time to show up and beat them, the big bad Lloydminster Barons, it just feels great,” said Machura. “I am so proud of my team.”
The Lions will now battle for the Wheatland Football League Championship at home against the Holy Rosary Raiders on Nov. 2 at 1 p.m.
“(The Raiders) are physical, athletic and execute well. They have the top rated defence in the league. We will have to be at our best to beat them. If we perform like we did in the first half of this game, or if we don’t have all our players playing up to their potential, we won’t win,” said Tanasichuk.
“It’s going to take a consistent effort from the opening kickoff. I would even go as far as to call us the underdog, despite being at home. We hope our fans help motivate us by being very loud.”
In a showing of appreciation, parents of the Lions' Grade 12 players met their sons at midfield prior to the game and were handed a rose. Parents then joined their children in singing O Canada before watching them earn a berth into the WFL championship game.
Tanasichuk added that it is something the team has been doing for a few years, and that he feels it is important for his players to show their appreciation for the support that their parents have given them in their time as football players.
Thomson said that it was great to be able to share a moment with his parents on the Lions' home field before going to battle against the Barons.
“That was amazing. My parents have been there for me ever since Grade 9,” he said. “They’ve supported me all the way through (football), and it was just great to be able to do that.”
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