THUNDER BAY – Last season didn’t end the way the Hammarskjold Vikings had hoped it would.
But a loss to the St. Ignatius Falcons in the high school football senior final left the players and coaches looking for answers.
If Friday’s season opener at Fort William Stadium was any indication, they found them.
Quarterback Zack Kuzik ran one in from 15 yards out and connected with receiver Ethan Porter on a pair of touchdown throws and the Vikings coasted to an easy Game 1 triumph, crushing the St. Patrick Saints 48-0.
Kuzik said there’s no question he wanted to let the rest of the SSSAA circuit know that Hammarskjold means business this fall.
“We came into Week 1 thinking everyone is thinking, ‘Hey, two years in a row you guys can’t win the final.’ This was definitely a huge statement, saying we’re here and we’re going to punch you in the mouth all the way to the finals,” Kuzik said.
Porter, who leapt into the air late in the first to grab a six-yard score, added his second touchdown of the day late in the second, a 10-yard toss from Kuzik, set up by a phenomenal 77-yard run by Michael Goegan.
Goegan, who looked like he was going to score himself, was hauled down by St. Patrick’s Jadyn Young.
“We had good blocking all around,” said Porter. “Everyone was making good plays.”
If the Vikings offence was firing on all cylinders, so too was the defence.
The Saints, who opened with a pair of Colin Wiseman incompletions, mixed the run and pass game well, but just couldn’t penetrate deep enough into the Hammarskjold side of the field.
With the game already out of reach, Wiseman’s biggest mistake cost the Saints another six points in the third, Justin Pucci snagging the attempted pass out of mid-air and darting to the goal line to extend the Hammarskjold lead to 38-0.
Justin Nadon, with an 11-yard scamper, and Ryan Laukka, who hit from 18 yards out in the fourth, also had scoring majors for the Vikings.
Hammarskjold coach Mike Judge said his troops were just glad to be playing an a meaningful opponent.
“We did get an exhibition game up in Winnipeg, but it’s not the same as when you get a real game and go out their firing on all cylinders,” Judge said. “The kids were eager.”
As well as the offence played, he was equally happy with the team’s play without the ball.
“There’s no doubt the defence is the strength of this team,” Judge said. “We’re big up front and that just sets the tone for us every game. That front eight for us are just so important.”
St. Ignatius 40, Westgate 19: Jordan Maki connected with receiver Trent Savard for touchdowns on throws of 46, 13 and 12 yards to lead the defending champion Falcons to the win. Brendan Hall had three touchdowns on the ground for the Tigers.