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This article was published 2/11/2012 (1393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The St. Paul's Crusaders are chasing the sweet repeat as the Winnipeg High School Football League's AAA champions.
The Crusaders, winners of two of the last three ANAVETS Bowl titles, shut out the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen 49-0 at East Side Field on Friday night in their Potter Division semifinal.
St. Paul's will put its 10-0 record on the line Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Canad Inns Stadium against the Miles Macdonell Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes defeated the Dakota Lancers 23-16 in the other Potter semifinal.
"It was a good feeling. We came into this game pretty nervous but we kept our cool, played our game and didn't let the opposition team have an effect on our game," said Crusaders' receiver Salim Belrhazi, who scored three touchdowns.
"After last week, Oak Park and Massey (Winnipeg), two top teams had a loss, and that really showed how the underdogs can really have an effect and win games. There was a lot of hype over this game too, saying they could beat us."
The Oak Park Raiders lost to Miles Macdonell and the Vincent Massey Trojans were beaten by Dakota in the quarter-finals.
Also on Nov. 9, the Kelvin Clippers will meet the defending champion Grant Park Pirates in the Vidruk AA Division's Free Press Bowl at 5 p.m.
On Nov. 8, Brandon's Neelin Spartans will take on the Steinbach Sabres in the Canad Inns Bowl at 7:30 p.m. The junior varsity division's championship, the Home Run Sports Bowl will be played Thursday at 5 p.m. between the Oak Park Raiders and the Vincent Massey Trojans (Winnipeg).
In the St. Paul's-Murdoch semifinal, Belrhazi scored touchdowns on catches of 10 yards and 12 yards, from quarterback Jamie Dzikowicz in the first half, and 49 yards from backup QB Xander Tachinski in the fourth quarter.
The Crusaders, who led 35-0 at the half, also got a pair of touchdowns from running back Blair Mattes on seven-yard and 17-yard rushes and two majors from Alex Taylor on a pair of one-yard runs.
Crusaders head coach Stacy Dainard said his team lost 31 of 41 players from last year's championship team.
"We graduated a whole bunch of guys last year so it's big for these kids (to be in the final). I think a lot of people saw how many guys we graduated and didn't think we'd be that competitive, so these guys had a good focus."
Dzikowicz pointed to playing last season behind former St. Paul's quarterback Théo Deezar, now with the University of Manitoba Bisons, as helping prepare him for this final.
"It was probably the best thing that's happened to me so far as a quarterback, he really showed how to be the best I can be and how to lead a team," said Dzikowicz. "The intensity's going to be high (in the final), playing mid-November we might be dealing with some conditions. We're expecting big things."
Buckeyes 23 Lancers 16
Coach Dan Washnuk's Buckeyes are in the AAA final just one season after moving up to the Potter Division from the AA Division where they lost in last year's final.
"It's unreal that we're going to the final. We didn't know if we were going to get anywhere in this division," said Buckeyes running back Houston Rennie, who caught a key two-point convert from quarterback Jayden McKoy and scored what stood as the game-winning touchdown. "Competing with everyone like this is just awesome. To be in the final in AAA is just crazy."
The Lancers led 9-8 at the half but the Buckeyes went ahead 16-9 on Carlos Mojica's five-yard TD run and Rennie's two-point convert.
In the fourth quarter after Rennie's TD, Dakota quarterback Ben Christensen scored on a five-yard TD rush to trail by seven.
The game ended in thrilling fashion with Dakota threatening to score.
Miles Mac's defence held strong, forcing Dakota to turn the ball over on downs on the Buckeyes' 10-yard line with 15 seconds left in the game.