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Crusaders repeat as AAA football champs, defeat Clansmen 56-8

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Trevor Hagan / Winnipeg Free Press

St. Paul's Crusaders AAA football team quarterback Drake Lesperance (10) fires a pass during the second half of the team's Anavets Bowl victory.

The St. Paul’s Crusaders top football squad wrapped their unbeaten season on Friday with a decisive championship victory, dispatching the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen 56-8 at Investors Group Field to win the Anavets Bowl.

With the win, the Crusaders claimed the Winnipeg High School Football League’s John Potter Division championship for the third year in a row. The win also followed another Crusaders victory, as the St. Paul’s AA squad won the Kas Vidruk championship earlier in the evening; it’s the first time since 2009 both Crusaders teams have won their division titles.

It was always going to be a tough haul for the Clansmen. The scrappy small-school team came into the playoffs 4-3-1 on the season, whereas the Crusaders — one of the top-rated programs in the country — charged through unbeaten. The Clansmen had one of the most explosive air attacks in the league, but the Crusaders had the defence to keep that grounded, while breaking out the big plays of their own.

That started with 6:51 left in the first quarter, when St. Paul’s running back Alex Taylor shot through a perfect hole into wide-open space, cashing in for a 37-yard touchdown dash. Just over two minutes later, receiver Brendan Naujoks hauled down a Xander Tachinski pass, then broke a tackle for a long touchdown catch. (He’d score again in the fourth.) Tachinski would score the Crusaders’ third major, a goal-yard run, as the first quarter rolled over.

Taylor scored again at 7:07 of the second quarter, flying 25 yards to the house to put the Crusaders up 28-0. By then, he’d picked up 97 yards and two touchdowns on his first six carries. St. Paul’s would pad the lead again before the half, after Tachinski found receiver Eric Higham for a 12-yard scoring pass, and Taylor would get a third touchdown midway into the third quarter to put the score at 42-0.

The Crusaders took many of their starters out shortly thereafter. Tachinski finished the night having connected on seven of his nine passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also called his own number for another 29 yards. They’d add fourth-quarter scores from Naujoks and running back Austin Coutts to round out the scoring.

Let it be known that the Clansmen didn’t go down without a fight. They made their own strike late in the third quarter, when league-leading receiver Kannon Felix pulled in a Drenin Busch pass for a big 43-yard gain. A few moments later, Busch completed the drive by finding Felix again, this time in the endzone for a touchdown strike. The Clansmen made good on a two-point conversion, putting them on the board for eight points.


Updated on Saturday, November 9, 2013 at 12:17 AM CST: Adds photo, slide show.

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