Star quarterback Jarred White and the two-time defending senior football champion Churchill Trojans hit a roadblock as they opened the quest for their third straight city crown.
Josh Whitehurst hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions and the Westgate Tigers pass rush sacked the Churchill pivot four times as Westgate opened the Thunder Bay high school senior football season with a 22-14 victory over the Trojans in the first of three United Way Bowl Games at Fort William Stadium on Friday.
The win is the first for Westgate in the showdown between south-side schools since the season opener two years ago.
“It’s a great victory,” Whitehurst said. “They’re a good team but we have a lot of work to do. We came in here knowing that it was going to be a hard matchup and that a victory here wasn’t going to be easy.”
Immediately following the final whistle, Tigers head coach Mike McNally told his squad to enjoy the victory but at the same time realize it does not guarantee them anything going forward.
“What I told this team earlier was that we were going to have earn everything we got. Churchill is a quality program and we knew we were going to be in for a tough game, and it was,” McNally remarked.
“We know we have a lot of work to do yet. Championships are not won on the first game, and we talked about that. It was just another football game between two good football teams banging on the field.”
White finished the game going 10-25 through the air for 123 yards and a pair of touchdown passes as the Tigers did not allow him to get comfortable or find a rhythm.
“He’s a great quarterback and part of our preparations was working on pass rush and schemes to get in his face and try to stop that passing game that they have,” McNally said. “The linebackers and defensive line played fantastically (Friday). Definitely game ball to those guys.”
On the flip side, Churchill head coach Mike Doromko gave the Westgate defence credit for getting after his young offensive line, and thinks the early season adversity will help his team after posting a 7-1-1 mark last year.
“You learn a sentence when you win, but a whole book when you lose,” Doromko said.
The Tigers were the dominant force early, as Westgate raced out to a 15-0 lead by the conclusion of the first quarter.
Quarterback Dillan Tataryn and Whitehurst clicked early on, as they connected on a pair of touchdown passes. They opened the scoring on a 10-yard hookup, and doubled the lead to 12-0 on a 23-yard strike.
“There’s lots of chemistry,” Whitehurst said of the relationship between he and his quarterback, and added that they have been playing football together since they were both in Grade 5. “He knows where I’m going to go and if he rolls out he knows where he can find me.”
The Tigers came up empty on both point-after attempts added a field goal on a 31-yard make by Brendan Phyllis.
Churchill got on the board in the second quarter as the Trojans took advantage of opportune field position following a Westgate fumble.
White hit Andrew Kytor from inside the red zone for the touchdown, and then found Brennan Tienhaara for the two-point conversion to cut the Tigers lead to seven at the half.
Westgate sacked White three times in the first half, and limited the Trojans offence to less than one yard per play, as Churchill finished the half with 22 plays for only 33 yards.
Churchill got to within a single point in the third quarter after White tossed his second touchdown of the contest as he located Tienhaara for a 51-yard catch and run score. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt to take the lead was unsuccessful.
The Westgate defence kept Churchill off the board in the fourth quarter, and the Tigers put the icing on the cake with a 1-yard touchdown run by Caleb White.
In the second game, the St. Ignatius Falcons scored 28 unanswered second half ponts to roll to a 35-7 victory over the St. Patrick Saints. The St. Ignatius ground game was merciless, rushing for 208 yards on 32 carries as three different Falcons rushed for a score.
The Hammarskjold Vikings closed out the evening by recording a dominating 37-6 victory over their north-side rivals, the Superior Gryphons. The Vikings defence recorded six sacks en route to the victory, as the Superior offence was limited to a mere 43 yards on 22 plays. Hammarskjold quarterback Keenan Postans ran for two touchdowns in the winning effort.
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