THUNDER BAY – The St. Ignatius Falcons are a work in progress.
A year removed from a six-in-a-row high school junior football championship run, not to mention a spot in last year’s final, the Falcons have won two straight to open the 2019 season. But their latest, a 24-13 triumph on Thursday afternoon at Fort William Stadium, took a little more work than they’ve become accustomed to in recent years – not to mention needing a few encouraging words from the coaching staff to remind them to keep on track.
Another multiple touchdown game from burly running back Tyler Robertson also didn’t hurt.
Robertson struck twice from three yards out, giving him five touchdowns in the Falcons first two games, bruising his way up the middle on both occasions for the score.
The first came nearly 10 minutes into the second quarter, the direct result of a costly turnover by the Hammarskjold offence when quarterback Keaton Cristofaro launched a backward pass into empty space, St. Ignatius’ Nico Savarelli pouncing on the loose ball on the Hammarskjold 14-yard line.
Robertson went up the gut on runs of seven and four yards and capped the drive by crossing the goal line on the next play, evening the score 7-7.
Seventy-nine seconds later the Falcons had the lead for good, Robertson mirroring the previous drive with a pair of red zone runs that set up his second scoring run of the evening.
“I think there was good blocking,” Robertson said. “We have a really good offensive line and they’re making things so easy.”
The Falcons took a 14-7 lead in to the half and had two great chances to add to their lead in the third, but couldn’t take advantage of a pair of pick-offs thrown by Hammarskjold pivot Christian Laur, the first by Rob Hathazi that gave St. Ignatius the ball a midfield, the second taken 40 yards to the Vikings three by Ethan Berquist.
Robertson tried twice to punch it through and quarterback Michael Danchuk tried a third time, only to turn the ball over on downs at the two.
The Falcons pinned the Vikings deep in their end and forced them to punt from their end zone. A short punt, combined with a holding call gave St. Ignatius the ball back on the Hammarskjold seven, leading to a 13-yard Hathazi field goal.
Danchuk, after being intercepted on the Falcons first possession of the fourth by the Vikings Brandon Thibodeau, got a second chance when Hammarskjold coughed up the ball on the very next play.
The St. Ignatius quarterback, who overthrew his receiver twice earlier in the game on open shots to the end zone, finally connected at the 3:28 mark hitting Harrison Tsekouras on a 33-yard scoring strike to that upped the Falcons lead to 24-7.
“Our defence came out hard. Our offence started a little bit slow, but we came back,” Danchuk said. “We came to fight. We knew this was going to be a good game. We just have to move the ball around a little more,” Danchuk said.
Hammarskjold’s Dylan Halls, who staked the Vikings to a 7-0 lead on a 29-yard scamper in the first closed out the scoring in the final minute of play, racing in from four yards out.
The Falcons take on St. Patrick next Thursday in a rematch of the 2018 final, a 4 p.m. start at St. Patrick.
The Vikings will look for their first win of the season against Westgate.
St. Patrick 42, Westgate 14: The Saints raced out to a 29-0 first quarter lead and coasted to a second straight win to open the season. Manerplaw Winning ran a punt back for one score, crossed the goal line on a 40-yard run, booted a field goal, four extra points and a rouge to lead Saints. Matthew Willianen had a 60-yard scoring run for the Tigers, who dropped to 0-2.