Sean TenHave saved his best for last.
Nicknamed “Wheels” for his speed and “300” for a record-setting yardage performance earlier this season, the Westgate Tigers running back on Tuesday reeled off fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 72 and 90 yards to lead his team to a stunning come-from-behind 47-38 quarterfinal triumph over the Hammarskjold Vikings.
The win, the junior Tigers’ first of the season, earned Westgate the fourth and final playoff berth and a semifinal date Saturday against the front-running St. Ignatius Falcons.
The Vikings led 28-14 at the half and entered the final quarter with an 11-point edge, but saw their junior football season come to a crashing halt.
TenHave, who rushed for 252 yards and four touchdowns, still couldn’t believe they came out on top in the back-and-forth affair that saw the two sides score on each their first two possessions and the Vikings find the end zone four straight times to start the game, their only stop coming on an abbreviated possession in the final minute of the first half.
“It was huge. We did great. Everybody played good. It was awesome,” said TenHave, who upped his season totals to 756 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns.
“I don’t know how we did it.”
“I think last touch did win it,” his coach, Chris Morand chimed in.
Trailing 40-38 with slightly more than two minutes to go, the Vikings (1-4-0) had a chance to take the lead, having marched down the field on the backs of halfback Nick Couzelis and quarterback Bryce Jorgenson, who kept the drive alive on a 34-yard keeper that had Hammarskjold within shouting distance of the Westgate goal line.
But after Owen Hynna was dropped for a loss, Timmy Hollinger’s 17-yard field-goal attempt slammed into the upright, putting the ball back into TenHave’s hand.
On the very next play he blasted down the right side of the Fort William Stadium field and went untouched for the 90-yard score, the dagger that pushed the game out of reach of a Vikings team that seemingly had the contest in hand at the half.
“(The missed field goal) was huge, because that would have put us in a position where we would have had to get down and score and kill the clock. It was just amazing,” Morand said.
The first-year coach said he just told his team to believe in themselves, even when they were trailing and unable to halt the Hammarskjold offence in the opening half.
“We know that we have an amazing receiving corps. We have a backfield, the quarterback, fullback and halfback, that can take it the length of the field on any given play. All they have to do is execute their plays and they will get the results against St. Ignatius.”
It was Couzelis who had the hot hand in the opening half, punching in a pair of one-yards scores and a two-yard major.
Hammarskjold’s other score, that gave them a 14-7 lead eight minutes into the game, came on a 25-yard Hynna scamper.
Westgate’s first score came just 48 seconds after Couzelis’s first, a 65-yard strike between Maxton Gutman and Jack Gellespie. TenHave tied it up again with under a minute to play in the first, scoring from 17 yards out.
James Thordarson, who touched the ball four times and ran for 139 yards, started the Tigers comeback on their first possession of the second half, bursting through the middle for a 48-yard touchdown. Not to be outdone, Jorgenson made it 38-20 on a 10-yard keeper, but Thordarson had the answer, a 73-yard run to the end zone that made it 38-27.
The Tigers defence finally stopped the Vikings and forced a punt, which Mathew Gordon promptly returned into Hammarskjold territory, setting up a 22-yard TenHave score up the middle. After another three-and-out TenHave took the direct snap and blasted 72 yards down the sideline, then kicked the extra point to give the Tigers the lead for good.
St. Patrick and Churchill will meet in Saturday's other semifinal.
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