THUNDER BAY – Typically high school football games are won on the ground.
Someone forgot to tell the Sir Winston Churchill Trojans.
Backed by the bullet-strength arm of quarterback Dylan Ford and the smooth-as-silk hands of running back Braeden Prochnicki, the Trojans on Friday night showed they plan to go out on their own terms – through the air.
Ford opened the game with six straight passing plays, connecting on five, and threw a pair of touchdown passes, one to Prochnicki, the other a one-yard strike to receiver Connor Byerley, leading the Trojans to a 33-17 victory over Hammarskjold in their final season-opening game before the school closes for good in June.
While an aerial attack isn’t out of the ordinary for a Mike Doromko-coached team, it was the ease of how they did it that set Churchill apart.
That suits Ford just fine.
“It’s something I hope we stick with all year. Personally, from my point of view, I enjoy throwing more than running,” Ford said. “If it works, why not stick with it, right?”
The deep ball worked most of the evening, Ford crediting a total team effort for allowing the game plan to unfold as it did.
“We watched a lot of game film and we knew what we were getting into when we started the game. It was really preparation and not a lot of adjustments during the game,” the Grade 12 student said.
Prochnicki, who praised the entire team from top to bottom, said Ford’s performance was spectacular to watch.
“My quarterback, it was textbook,” Prochnicki said. “All his balls were placed perfectly on the field. He put up everything in perfect position for our receivers to make a play. Without him, we wouldn’t have had any receiving touchdowns.”
Prochnicki kicked off the Trojans offensive attack 3:33 into the opening quarter, running one in from 36 yards, James Basalyga converting the first of four two-point tries for an 8-0 Churchill lead.
Devin Hoier, who learned to kick in the Thunder Bay Chill organization, got the Vikings on the board later in the first, booting a 42-yard field goal. But Byerley answered back with a 33-yard dash across the goal-line and the Trojans took a 16-3 lead after one.
Prochnicki had the lone major of the second quarter, hauling in a 35-yard catch from Ford, Dyk Taw adding a rouge point before half for a 25-3 advantage.
After a scoreless third, Hammarskjold quarterback Marti Martinez scored on a one-yard keeper at the Trojans goal line, making it a two-score game five seconds into the final stanza.
Down 33-10, Martinez found Hunter Campbell for a 21-yard TD, to wrap up the scoring midway through the fourth.
“It’s feels awesome to start 1-0,” Prochnicki said. “It feels awesome to represent such an amazing school that unfortunately is closing for the last year. We’re just trying to make a statement this year.”