Even swirling snow couldn't freeze the St. Paul's Crusaders AA football team on Friday night as they blazed out a Free Press Bowl win at Investors Group Field.
The Crusaders' second varsity squad -- fully a quarter of the school tries out for its teams -- rolled over the Garden City Fighting Gophers 32-0 in the Winnipeg High School Football League's Kas Vidruk division championship game, which kicked off at 5 p.m. It's the first time the Crusaders' AA team has won the title since 2009.
"Words can't explain how happy I am right now," said Grade 10 running back Trevor Wright, who was named the top performer of the tilt after busting out some big-money plays. "It feels great. It's an honour to be named player of the game."
The Crusaders and Fighting Gophers never met during the regular season, though they were both 6-2 heading into the playoffs. When kickoff came on Friday night, the St. Paul's team took control early, and never looked back. They opened the scoring in the first quarter when pivot Tommy Semchyshyn found Cole Zadro with a 37-yard touchdown pass.
They got their second score off an unusual play in the second frame, when kicker Matias Bueno recovered his own missed field goal in the Gophers' end zone. After the half, the Crusaders continued to pull away, as Wright exploded for a huge 73-yard touchdown scamper. In the final frame, the Crusaders would add one last major with a five-yard hustle from running back Heath Chalmers.
It was a slick game underneath the flurry of melting snow, and the ball kept squirting out of players' hands: In just over three minutes in the third quarter, players fumbled the ball three times, and it changed possession twice. But the Crusaders were still able to take their game plan and execute it until the end.
For the team's five seniors, it was a chance to go out on a high note, and for its 36 rookies, a chance to kick off their high school career with a winning experience.
"Our guys just believed, and they showed up today, and they played a good game," head coach Peter Pura said. "We're just blessed to have the opportunity that we had today. I'm happy for our seniors."