The Grant Park Pirates won their first ever Winnipeg High School Football League championship title last season so you can't blame them for wanting to hang onto it.
The Pirates, winners of the 2011 Free Press Bowl, beat the Maples Marauders 44-7 on Thursday in their Vidruk AA Division quarter-final at Canad Inns Stadium.
"We want this title very much, we've put in the work in the off-season, our team's been training so hard, we work hard every day in practice, we want it," said Grant Park running back Michael Ritchott, who scored four touchdowns Thursday.
"Our defence was a stone tonight! I don't think they (Maples) got over 100 yards rushing on us. Our defence has been the core of our team, they continue to carry our team. It's pretty exciting (to get to the semifinals) but there's still a lot more to improve on our team."
Grant Park head coach Doug Kovacs, who this season replaced Mike Kennedy who is now the school's football director, said the win was big for the team and the school.
"We're pretty excited about this but we're such a small school, we only have 600 kids, we just want to stay focused right now," he said. "I tell them don't worry about what's going to happen or what has happened, just live in the moment and make that the best you can."
Ritchott scored his first major for the Pirates on their first possession followed by Joel North's 16-yard rushing touchdown late in the first quarter for a 14-0 Pirates lead.
Richott, who was also a member of last year's championship team, also scored touchdowns on runs of 43, 40 and 20. The Pirates led 35-0 at the half.
The Marauders played most of the game with a depleted lineup after suffering injuries to several players. Receiver Steven Innualuk was hurt with 2:34 left in the second quarter on a punt return and taken by ambulance to hospital. While Innualuk did wave to the crowd as he was being taken away, a team coach said the suspected injury was in the neck area.
In the Potter AAA division quarterfinal at St. Paul's field, the defending ANAVETS Bowl champion St. Paul's AAA Crusaders took another step toward defending their title, beating the Churchill Bulldogs 39-6. Wet snow fell during the six playoff games that were played at three different fields. The other six quarter-finals in the three divisions will be played tonight.
Currie A Division
Beaver Brae 9 Elmwood 6
Neelin 53 Daniel McIntyre 0
Neelin's Osian Edwards scored three touchdowns (81, 26 and 26 yards), Dylan Minshull had two touchdowns (45 and 2 yards), Bryce Keilback scored one (2 yards) and Chance Miller had two (3 and 98-yard interception return).
Vidruk AA Division
Vincent Massey-Bdn. 15 Kildonan East 0
River East 14 St. Paul's 6
River East's Sean Wake scored a one-yard touchdown and Tanner Pescitelli kicked a pair of field goals. Marko Klimenko scored St. Paul's touchdown on a 12-yard catch.
Grant Park 44 Maples 7
Michael Ritchott scored four rushing touchdowns for Grant Park with Joel North and Damian Surprenant each scoring one. Reid MacDonald scored Maples' TD on a five-yard catch.
Potter AAA division
St. Paul's AAA 39 Churchill 6
St. Paul's quarterback Jamie Dzikowicz threw for three touchdowns to Morison Smith, Salim Belrhazi and Trysten Dyce while Blair Mattes rushed for one touchdown and Leon Cenerini scored a kickoff return touchdown. The Bulldogs's only major came from Lawi Milligita.