IT took a tight battle, a sort of relentless grind, but the Elmwood Giants toppled the West Kildonan Wolverines 14-7 at Investors Group Field on Thursday night to claim the title of Winnipeg High School Football League's Andy Currie A Division champs.
"It's hard to describe, I'm speechless," said Giants tailback/linebacker Shaun Neil as his teammates cheered their win on the field. Neil, who finished with a touchdown and was also the defensive player of the game, wore a bloody five-inch scratch along his neck, evidence of a hard-fought tilt. "It was tough for both teams. I'm just happy to come out with the win. It's all heart... all of us just played for our Grade 12s and that's all I can say."
As the score suggests, the game was a war of attrition. The teams ended the first half tied 7-7 on the strength of a first-quarter touchdown run by Tyler Byron for the Wolverines and an end- zone plunge by Giants quarterback Braydin Chicoine.
But the stalemate wouldn't last. With just over seven minutes left in the third quarter and the Giants on their opponents' three-yard line, Neil pulled in a short toss from Chicoine. He broke the plane of the goal-line before the Wolverines could bring him down and pulled his team ahead 14-7.
"Shaun Neil, he's the real deal," said Giants coach Nathan Falk. "They were punishing him all game, he's just something else. He's quite the player."
The next quarter and a half were tense as the two teams held each other scoreless with tough defensive play. The Wolverines got one last chance late in the fourth when Giants punter Alexander Squires couldn't corral a high snap. That allowed the West Kildonan squad to take over deep in Giants territory. But in the end, quarterback Kelson Borisenko's long pass attempt to get into scoring position fell incomplete with just 46 seconds left to play.
It was the Wolverines' first loss of the season. The last time the two teams faced each other, West Kildonan eked out a 15-14 win.
"You didn't know until the last play what was going to happen," said Falk. "It was very intense, very close. Great game to coach, but it's always more fun when you win."