The St. Ignatius Falcons were not prepared to give up an opportunity to play for a championship trophy after a perfect regular season.
They also don’t plan on getting complacent now they have that chance.
Chris Merritt racked up 197 yards on the ground and a pair of majors to lead the top-seeded Falcons to a 34-6 semifinals victory over the Westgate Tigers at the Fort William Stadium on Saturday to book their spot in next week’s junior football final.
However, while he is enjoying the victory, the co-player of the game is keeping his eyes on the grand prize.
“It feels pretty good, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Merritt said. “We have to hope to be better in the finals, because there is a lot of stuff we could have improved.”
That belief was echoed by Falcons coach Michael Savioli following the game.
“We have a lot to improve on, and we need to clean our game up for the finals,” Savioli remarked.
“Playing in tight football games helps you improve, and we’ve had a couple, but the last few haven’t been. A game like this definitely focuses us on what we need to do to get better.”
Special teams played a significant role for the Falcons, as two of their five touchdowns were came off punt plays.
The Falcons got on the board before the offence even had an opportunity to have a possession, as Jordie Miault blocked a John Czupryna punt and ran it back to the end zone.
Later in the second half, St. Ignatius punter Ethan Slater misfired on a punt that travelled only about 15 yards, but he ran up onside to secure the ball and take it to the house.
Those two plays made the margin of victory look a lot bigger than it actually was, Savioli said.
From there, the ground game produced the rest of the points.
Merritt provided a barrage of scoring, as he found a pair of touchdowns in the half to give St. Ignatius a 20-lead lead.
St. Ignatius runs a more balanced offence than is commonly seen in junior football, as the Falcons can turn to an aerial attack in what is normally a run oriented division.
This balance keeps opposing defences honest.
“It definitely helps. Teams can’t just stack up and put eight men in the box against you,” Savioli said.
“They have to respect the pass and Westgate did and they did a good job. If it wasn’t for those two special teams touchdowns it would have been a closer game.”
In addition to 12 tackles defensively, Josh Newransky hauled in three receptions for 93 yards.
Merritt credits the threat of Newransky for giving him room to rumble.
“He takes a lot of pressure off, because you throw to him and they start to watch the pass more,” Merritt said. “Then we run it right up the middle and we can go for a big game.”
Reilly Fors capped off the Falcons offence with a 32-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
James Thordarson provided the lone spark for the Tigers, taking a kickoff back 89 yards to the end zone late in the first half.
The Falcons will face the St. Patrick Saints, the victors by a 34-29 score over the Churchill Trojans in the other semi, in next week's final.
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