Marauders 12, Crusaders 10
The Holy Cross Crusaders have won a lot and lost some, too. As far as losses go, however, this one hurt more than most.
“I don’t think you can (lose it in a worse manner),” admitted longtime Holy Cross head coach Scott Hundseth, whose Crusaders gave up a game-winning safety touch with 32 seconds remaining that handed the visiting Regina Miller Marauders a 12-10 victory in the Saskatchewan provincial 6A high school football championship at SMF Field on Remembrance Day.
It was a game both to remember and forget, depending on which side you were.
Holy Cross had fought back from a 10-0 deficit to knot the score at 10-10 with 2:39 remaining on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Elias Flory to Britton Tabler, who finished the game with a game-high 11 receptions and 148 yards.
But, in the dying seconds, Miller punter Brady Vindevoghel was able to pin the Crusaders into the so-called coffin corner, leaving them to scrimmage on their 1-yard line. Holy Cross fumbled the ball in the end-zone, subsequently tackled for the decisive safety.
“It was a hard-fought victory — there’s no question about that,” said Regina Miller head coach Jason Duczek, whose team captured its third-straight provincial championship.
“Holy Cross battled really hard. We battled really hard. We’re the fortunate one to come out with the victory here. Having the wind in the fourth quarter was a big difference, even though they scored their lone TD into the wind. We were able to get a couple of first downs back and change the field position and then a big punt by our quarterback (Vindevoghel). He was convinced he was going to get the single, but it landed out at the one. With two timeouts left for ourselves, I was hoping we could just stop them, get the ball back and get a field goal and we got the fortunate break that they fumbled the handoff and we got a safety.”
It had looked like Holy Cross had made a defensive stop on Regina’s 34-yard line, forcing a third down with 2:06 left but Miller faked the punt and a direct snap resulted in a first down to keep the drive going and flip field position.
As a quarterback, Vindevoghel completed 12 of 19 passing attempts for 188 yards and one TD major. He punted the ball eight times for 304 yards.
Tanner Donovel was the prime target for the Marauders with six catches for 110 yards and his team’s lone TD.
“It feels really good — not just for me, obviously, but for the whole team to win three provincials back-to-back-to back,” said Donovel, a Grade 12 student.
“It feels really good celebrating as a team, for sure. I’ve got to give it up for the blockers. I can’t do it without them. I just got the edge there and it was nice, easy run home.”
Donovel scored on a 27-yard TD reception and also had a 52-yard catch to close out the game.
“On offence for ourselves, we had one of our key receivers out for this game so we needed No. 16, Tanner Donovel, to step up and he stepped up and made some great plays,” said Duczek. “He’s an elusive receiver, got great hands and he did a great job for us today.”
Flory finished the game completing 19 of 29 passing attempts for 236 yards and one major for the Crusaders. Aulain Penner rushed the ball 21 times for 79 yards.
The Marauders had six different ball carriers, totalling 108 yards on 24 rushes.
“It was a very ironic game because they run the ball especially well,” noted Hundseth.
“They have a great O-line. We run the ball real well. Yet both teams went to the air. It’s a sign that both teams realized their strengths and weaknesses, if there were any weaknesses, and both teams threw the ball really well.
“I was super-impressed with Eli. He was unreal today.”
The last minute didn’t even seem real if you were on the Crusaders. It was a shocking end.
“A great punt by their punter to put it down to the 1-yard line — I get that. But when you have a good game, sometimes, between two good teams is decided by the weirdest plays and that’s what happened,” said Hundseth, whose team also had three missed field goals in the loss that snuffed out potential scoring drives.
“That was a tough one for us. Obviously we battled real hard. A pretty good comeback at the end by our offence that fought back. Wind was a factor on some of those (kicks) and we just didn’t get it done. We barely missed — that’s inches, right? We thought it was (going to overtime). We knew we had to get it out of our end. We’re glad the ball didn’t go into the end-zone for one point (on the punt), but maybe that would have better than the way we lost it.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one, a real tough one. That’s one of the toughest ones. We thought we battled pretty hard today, and, to lose like that, it’s hard. A tough way to finish it.”
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