EVERY minute that ticked by on Friday night the St. Paul's Crusaders' legacy grew: High school football champs once again, the unbeatable boys in maroon.
The Crusaders' top squad dispatched the Murdoch MacKay Clansmen 56-8 at Investors Group Field to win the ANAVETS Bowl and defend their AAA title as John Potter Division champions for the third year running. Tip the hat though, the Crusaders are class acts.
"The score doesn't entirely tell the story-- Murdoch's a heck of a team, and they have great players," said pivot Xander Tachinski, who wrapped his high school quarterbacking career on Friday, having connected on seven of nine throws for 175 yards and three touchdown strikes. "Being with this group of Grade 12s, sending us out with a perfect season and a win, it feels unbelievable."
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 packing plenty of their own weapons.
Let it be known: 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 end zone for a touchdown strike.
The Clansmen made good on a two-point conversion, putting them on the board for eight points.
But by then the game was already well out of hand. The Crusaders started their attack with 6:51 left in the first quarter, when 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 Tachinski pass, then broke a tackle for a long touchdown catch.
Tachinski would score the Crusaders' third major as the first quarter rolled over. Taylor scored again at 7:07 of the second period, flying 25 yards 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 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 to put the score at 42-0.
The Crusaders took many of their starters out shortly thereafter, though they added fourth-quarter scores from Naujoks and running back Austin Coutts.
The win came right after St. Paul's AA team clinched the Free Press Bowl with a 32-0 win over Garden City, making it the first time since 2009 both Crusaders units have won their division titles.