Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crusaders trim Clippers' sails in semi

St. Paul's falls behind early, storms back for convincing win

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THE St. Paul's Crusaders continue to roll undefeated through the Winnipeg High School Football League, besting the Kelvin Clippers 25-7 in the AAA Division final on Friday night.

For the first 30 minutes, the Clippers brought the battle, even holding a 7-1 lead for almost a full quarter of play. The two teams had met before, in Week 4, and that game started as a grind as well.

"We knew it would be a tough, gritty game coming into it," said Crusaders running back Alex Taylor, 17, who racked up 236 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

"It was pretty much like déj vu right at halftime. We all knew it was coming, but at the end of the day we did what we wanted to and that was win. But hats off to Kelvin, they played a hell of a game and they're a very good team."

'We all knew it was coming, but at the end of the day we did what we wanted to and that was win. But hats off to Kelvin, they played a hell of a game and they're a very good team'

-- Crusaders running back Alex Taylor

Let the record show the Clippers, who came into the playoffs 5-3 on the season, kept the Crusaders' attack canned through most of the first half of the contest played at Kildonan East Collegiate.

In the second quarter, the Crusaders were knocking on Kelvin's door when pivot Xander Tachinski tried a long-bomb touchdown strike to receiver Brendan Naujoks, but Clippers defender Robbie Cruz broke it up to force a third down. The Crusaders ended that possession without cashing in on the scoreboard.

Of course, St. Paul's defence was ravenous too, and the Clippers' offence just couldn't find a way to break through:

They scored their only tally, a Sebastien Bel touchdown, near the end of the first quarter. But they couldn't score again, and with their defence logging big minutes on the field, something eventually had to break. After the half, it did.

The teams went into the break with St. Paul's up just 11-7.

But halfway through the third, Taylor struck for a major, and with eight minutes left in the fourth Naujoks served up a blazing 70-yard punt-return touchdown to put the game well out of reach for a Clippers offence that struggled to gain ground.

The Crusaders will now head to the final next week against the Murdoch McKay Clansmen, who knocked off the Dakota Lancers 29-22 in the other semifinal tilt later on Friday.

The win also confirms another feather for the St. Paul's football cap: The school's AA team also earned a spot in the WHSFL's Kas Vidruk Division final, and the Crusader's junior varsity squad made it to that division's championship game as well.

It's the first time three St. Paul's teams have made it to their respective finals.

"We're very blessed," head coach Stacy Dainard said, noting that about 25 per cent of St. Paul's students try out each year.

"We have a lot of guys playing football, so we're very fortunate that way."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 2, 2013 C4

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