THUNDER BAY – Moments after the defending champion St. Patrick Saints secured a 38-0 win in their junior high school football opener, Manerplaw Winning had cautionary words of his advice for his teammates.
“It’s only one game,” the team’s star running back said.
For a team with a target on its back, it’s good advice. Titles aren’t won in September, but messages can certainly be sent.
The Hammarskjold Vikings got one loud and clear on Thursday afternoon at Fort William Stadium, turning the ball over four times, including a 65-yard pick-six by Saints defensive end Ryder Bodnar, who leapt into the air to snag a Jake Kuzik pass and didn’t stop running until he’d crossed the goal line.
Winning, who scored from five yards out after the first Vikings turnover gave the Saints the ball on the Hammarskjold 20, and dashed home with another score from 29 yards out in the second quarter to up their lead to 28-0, said the win is something to build on.
“One game doesn’t define a championship,” the Grade 10 student said.
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We can’t get too caught up on this win, so tomorrow we’ll reset and get ready for Westgate.”
Winning spent part of his summer in Kamloops, B.C. playing at the western nationals as part of Team Manitoba, and looked every bit the star he showed himself to be last year, leading the Saints to a 5-1 regular-season record.
“I’ve been playing all summer since Kamloops, so it was fun getting back into it. I’m in Grade 10 now, so I have to lead by example, so I just have to show up every game.”
After forcing the Vikings to take a knee in their end zone for a first quarter safety to take an 8-0 lead, the Vikings scored on the ensuing drive, quarterback Iene Auger moving the pile from one yard out across the goal line.
The Saints stormed deep into the red zone thanks to a 32-yard run by Winning, who also hooked up with Auger for a nine-yard catch-and-run that left the with a goal-to-go from the one.
Bodnar’s interception came on the Vikings ensuing drive, as he scampered all but untouched down the field for the score.
“That pick, I just read it in my zone. There was great blocking by my team,” he said, noting his other defensive teammates also had great games.
“Paul Lecuyer played fantastic today with a sack and seven tackles. It was perfect defence today.”
Kiran MacKenzie scored the Saints final touchdown of the day, providing the lion’s share of the offence before scoring from one yard out, having delivered the ball 42 yards on two rushes to deliver the ball to the Hammarskjold goal line.
St. Patrick coach Dave Battistel called it a great all round effort and a great start to the 2019 junior season.
“The guys came out ready to play. I was really impressed with their effort. Kudos to Hammarskjold for playing a great game. I don’t think the score was indicative of what was going on,” he said.
St. Ignatius 42, Westgate 14: Tyler Robertson had scoring runs of 80, 52 and 20 yards to lead the Falcons to an opening day win.