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Basalyga powers Tigers to first win of 2021

Westgate quarterback threw for two touchdowns, ran for three, kicked five extra points and a 23-yard field goal in 50-8 win over the St. Patrick Saints.
Evan Basalyga
Westgate's Evan Basalyga is chased down by a pair of St. Patrick defenders, Paul Lecuyer and Nathan Welyki, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at Fort William Stadium. (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com)

THUNDER BAY – If there's such a thing as a jack-of-all trades on the senior high school football circuit, it's Evan Basalyga.

The Westgate Tigers quarterback can do it all.

He kicks extra points. He boots field goals. He drops back, surveys the field and throws touchdown passes.

And if that's not enough, he's not afraid to call his own number and run the ball.

On Friday night, he showcased his entire skill-set, kicking five extra points, a 23-yard field goal, throwing for two touchdown scores and just for fun, he ran for 108 yards and three more touchdowns, leading the Tigers to a 50-8 rout of the St. Patrick Saints at Fort William Stadium.

It was the first win of the season for the Tigers, the defending Superior Secondary School Athletics Association champions who were unable to defend their title last season due to COVID-19 cancelling the campaign.

“We knew what we had here and we knew what kind of team we had. We knew we had to come here and prove it to everyone and now everyone knows what we're made of said Basalyga, following in the football footsteps of his older brother Trystan and leading the way for younger brother Lance, a budding star on the junior Tigers.

Westgate took a first-quarter lead when Callum Downie found his way to the end zone from six yards out. Nick Buttigelli made it 13-0 later in the first, hauling in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Moore.

It was all Basalyga from there.

He scored on a 12-yard run 17 seconds into the second, then after hitting Ty Waite for a 31-yard strike that landed the ball on the Saints 24, he eventually lumbered in from the 18-yard line, the Tigers taking a 26-0 advantage.

The Saints mounted a drive deep into Westgate territory, but a fumble by Freedom Pawdomu set them back 15 yards and after an incomplete pass, quarterback Iene Auger was picked off.

Six plays later it was Basalyga again, rushing up the middle for a four-yard major and a 33-0 lead.

Jack Williamson broke Basalyga's streak midway through the third, scoring from five yards out, but the Tigers star quarterback was back at it again after Dylan Dubray recovered his second fumble of the contest, connecting with Waite for a 16-yard touchdown.

“Evan, even as a Grade 11 down in OFSSA, was a phenomenal player,” said Tigers coach Mike McNally. “Now he's developed into a man and he's lightning out there for us. He's a great player.

“It's a coach's dream to have a player like Evan. He'll do anything for us. He'll play any position for us. He just wants to win. He's very competitive.”

The Saints brightest light was running back Kiran MacKenzie, who rushed for a game-high 170 yards on the ground and scored St. Patrick's lone touchdown of the day after setting up the score with a 33-yard run to the Westgate 30. He added rushes of six and 14 yards before punching it in from the one. Pawdomu added the two-point conversion.

The result leaves the both teams at 1-3, the Saints lone win a 21-17 triumph over Westgate on Sept. 24.



Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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