THUNDER BAY – After nearly 22 months away from the field, the Hammarskjold Vikings made a triumphant return to the gridiron on Friday night.
Playing in blustery, drizzly Canadian football weather, the Vikings muscled their way into the end zone twice, their ground game powering the to a 13-6 win over the St. Ignatius Falcons at Fort William Stadium, beginning the hunt for what they hope is the team’s first senior boys championship since 2008.
“It’s amazing,” said Hammarskjold quarterback Peter Burgess, whose two-yard plunge up the middle three minutes into the fourth sealed the win for the Vikings, a team that went 4-1-1 in 2019, losing the 2020 campaign to the pandemic.
“The wait was so long. It’s awesome to be back and to start off with the win is awesome. It’s the best feeling.”
It was a matter of battling through the elements and sticking to the game plan, which involved a lot of tough runs, sprinkled with a pass or two just to keep the Falcons defenders honest.
“It wasn’t nice to play in, but honestly any weather is nice to play football in. It was rainy, it was very windy, but the run game was there and it helped us,” Burgess said.
The Vikings got off to a bit of a slow start, but found the goal line early in the second quarter, Dylan Halls barrelling up the middle and diving into the end zone for the score, Hammarskjold taking an early 7-0 lead.
The Falcons, winners of four senior football titles between 2014 and 2018, used special teams to draw within one, running back Liam Willmore hauling in a Hammarskjold punt at his own 30-yard line, ducking and dodging his way into open space and racing 80 yards for a touchdown that left St. Ignatius down by one at the half, trailing 7-6.
The score stayed that way until just beyond the three-minute mark of the fourth, when Burgess finished off a 37-yard drive with a two-yard keeper that gave the Vikings their final six points of the evening.
“That was all O-line. I owe that to Riley Judge and my centre. They made the perfect whole. The O-line played perfect the entire game,” Burgess said.
Hammarskjold coach Mike Judge, who told his team after the game he could barely contain his tears watching them win in their return, was pleased with the Vikings effort on both sides of the ball.
“We challenged our guys inside to play great defence, have good offensive line play and we hammered it out in the trenches in the first half and got a little outside on them in the second half. But every yard was hard tonight,” Judge said.
The Falcons best chance to get back in the contest came on another special teams play. The Vikings, looking to punt with under two minutes to play, fired the snap high, the ball eventually recovered by Hammarskjold on their own 45.
Tyler Robertson gained four yards on St. Ignatius’ first play, but a fumble by Michael Danchuk, led to no gain and the Falcons turned it over on downs on the next play.