When it looked like the end of an era had come to pass the St. Mary’s Mustangs wrestled with doubt and won.
The OSDSS Wolves took a 14-3 lead deep into the third quarter of the Bluewater Athletic Association senior boys championship Friday at Victoria Park, but the steadfast Mustangs scored 14-unanswered points to win their sixth-straight title, 17-14.
“This is high school football. It’s a game of momentum,” said St. Mary’s head coach Alex van Wieringen. “Everything seemed to be going their way for most of the game . . . we had some key players who stepped up when we needed them.”
For the second-straight week Mustangs’ running back Clayton Glover scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick to lead his team to victory.
“I think I have more fun than him out there just watching him,” said Mustangs’ quarterback M.J. McKenzie.
St. Mary’s looked the part of a five-time defending champion early in the game.
Glover and full-back Will Kazarian trampled down the remnants of the season’s first snowfall as the Mustangs drove the ball down 51 yards setting up a 14-yard field goal on their opening possession.
Blair Whitehouse kicked the ball through the uprights for the game’s first points.
As ice pellets rained down on the players the flow of the game and the field conditions turned to slop.
The Wolves missed an 18-yard field goal and muffed a punt, but the Mustangs failed to capitalize on the turnover.
The skies began to clear and the OSDSS offence went to work.
Wolves’ quarterback Ethin Derry scrambled outside for a big gain. As he got set at the line of scrimmage the Mustangs defence recognized a formation. Players and coaches screamed, “watch the quarterback run.”
Derry took the snap and faked an inside dive before launching the ball to Ethan Courtney. With one second left in the first half, the Wolves were on the one-yard line. Derry plunged into the endzone to give OSDSS a 6-3 lead at the end of the second quarter.
“We thought we had some momentum on our side,” said Wolves’ coach Mike Boyd.
In the third quarter, the Wolves dipped into their bag of tricks and staked an even bigger lead.
Derry handed the ball off to Courtney, but instead of running Courtney dropped back and looked downfield to a wide-open Nick Wardell. Wardell’s big touchdown catch-and-run – – and a successful two-point conversion caught by Isaiah Smith – – had the Wolves out front 14-3.
“I don’t think we were ready for it . . . I was worried,” said St. Mary’s fifth-year defensive tackle Drew Van Kooten. “I said ‘boys, we’ve got to get back in this. we’re getting slapped around.’”
On the Wolves’ next offensive possession Derry threw an interception.
This time, St. Mary’s took advantage of the turnover. The Mustangs drove the length of the field and Glover converted his first touchdown of the afternoon.
Next, Van Wieringen called for the onside kick. Glover was there again to snatch the kickoff and take it down to the Wolves’ 25-yard line.
“I knew we had to get the ball back. We were down in the game and it was getting close. I knew we needed the ball and needed to go score,” Glover said.
Moments later Glover broke through tackles and scored his second touchdown of the game to give the Mustangs a 17-14 lead with Whitehouse converting the extra point.
“We spent a whole week trying to stop their pitch. Traditionally, they’ve done really well running to the outside. We did plan for it,” Boyd said.
“Great players play well and they play exceptionally well when they have 11 other guys on the field who boost them up,” said van Wieringen. “He’s the anchor of our team. We give out team awards every game and he could pretty much win all seven awards.”
With ten minutes left in the game, the Wolves had time to stage their own comeback, but drive after drive stalled out at midfield. Penalties set them back and the Mustangs’ defence held the line.
“For whatever reason at that point we just didn’t get it together. We didn’t execute the way we should. If you want to win a championship you’ve got to execute,” said Boyd.
The Mustangs’ fifth-year seniors embraced at midfield after McKenzie took a knee to end the game.
“It’s the reason I came back, for this moment right here . . . no regrets,” said Van Kooten.
“It’s our whole goal for five years. We come into this winning program so it’s nice to carry it on,” McKenzie said.
“All the effort and work we’ve put in for the last five years, it just makes it feel good. We’re not done yet,” Glover said.
The St. Mary’s Mustangs will now host the winner of the District 8 championship in the CWOSSA semifinal at Victoria Park Nov. 14.