Ian Duckett did not want his high school football career to end on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
On Friday, with the game tied and the clock ticking inside the final minute of play, the Hammarskjold Vikings place kicker booted the biggest field goal of his life, a 47-yard game-winner that secured a 6-3 triumph.
“We lost in the championship game last year and me and the other kicker were practicing field goals from 50 yards at the beginning of the game, so we were ready for it,” the 18-year-old Duckett said.
Given that both teams entered play Friday at Fort William Stadium with identical 1-3 records, tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the senior circuit, and there was plenty riding on the kick.
Duckett said he felt his nerves rising as he ran onto the field for the try.
“That was pretty much our season. It was win or die if we lost that game. I didn’t come back to lose in the regular season. That was pretty much it,” Duckett said.
“When I went up there to kick it, I knew we needed two points. A tie wasn’t good enough. When I went up there to kick it I was pretty much thinking about my whole high school career.”
The Vikings have dates with unbeaten St. Ignatius and 4-1 Churchill, who won by forfeit Friday when the Superior Collegiate Gryphons couldn’t field a team.
The Saints (1-4) are scheduled to play Churchill and Superior.
Hammarskjold coach Mike Judge said there was no doubt what the Vikings plan was after limiting the Saints to a three-and-out possession deep in their own territory.
“We knew, whether we made a yard or 10, our thought process when our defence gave us the ball back that we were kicking. Ian came to me right before that possession and said, ‘Coach, I’m good from 55.’ So we knew right away if we stopped them on second down there we would be going to be kicking field goal.”
Of course the kick wouldn’t have been possible without the defensive stand.
As a whole, the Vikings limited the Saints to just 182 total yards, all but 15 yards on the ground.
It was a collective effort, Judge said.
“The credit for this victory, it goes to the defence. They gave us a chance there. They were tired. They were really slogging it out. That St. Pat’s offence was really tough for us to stop. The season was on the line,” he said.
The two teams were scoreless at the half, the first score coming with slightly more than two minutes to go in the third, a nine-yard Timmy Hollinger field goal.
The Saints later drove the ball deep into Vikings territory, but stymied by the Hammarskjold defence, had to settle for a 12-yard field goal from Mike Gentile.
The Vikings turned to the air late in the fourth, but quarterback Keenan Postans was picked off by Tyson Young to end the threat, the Saints taking over the ball with 1:18 to play.
Three plays later the Vikings had the ball back at the St. Patrick 44-yard line, and punched it ahead four yards, just enough distance for Duckett to squeeze the ball over the crossbar for the win.
The Saints had one last chance, but QB Marc Degagne’s errant throw was snagged by Hammarskjold’s Brad Dutchak, ending the contest.
Westgate 22, St. Ignatius 21: Josh Whitehurst kicked a rouge point with 33 seconds to go to hand the Falcons their first defeat of 2013 and set up a three-way tie atop the senior football standings. Caleb White rushed for 210 yards and two scores on the ground and caught a seven-yard touchdown pass for the Tigers. Jake Puskas had 129 yards and a score for the Falcons, who rallied with a pair of second-half touchdowns to erase a 14-point Westgate lead. Westgate, St. Ignatius and Churchill are all 4-1.
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