Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crusaders are firing with both barrels

Aiming at AA and AAA football supremacy

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The St. Paul's Crusaders are bringing double trouble to the Winnipeg High School Football League Championship for the first time in its 78 years of football history.

Two teams from St. Paul's High School earned berths in the championship games of the Winnipeg High School Football League which will be held Friday at Canad Inns Stadium.

It is the first time since the school started a second team nine years ago that both teams will compete in the final games of their respective divisions.

The perennially strong Crusaders' AAA team will meet the Oak Park Raiders in the Potter division final, called the ANAVETS Bowl, at 7:30 p.m. Joining them will be the Crusaders' upstart AA team which will meet the Grant Park Pirates at 5 p.m. in the Vidruk division final, called the Free Press Bowl.

"It's been a pretty exciting week at our school, that's for sure, and we know it's going to be a big day for all of us," said Crusaders AAA slotback/kicker Christian Hansen, a grade 12 player in his third year on the team. His younger brother Rhys is a grade 10 player in his first year on the team, who punts and handles kick-offs.

"Teams try to get out there and beat St. Paul's every year because people do expect us to have a strong program. Oak Park is a good team and we're going to have to step it up against them."

Both Crusaders teams lost in the regular season to their respective opponents -- Oak Park beat the Crusaders AAA 23-12 and Grant Park beat the Crusaders AA 31-9.

Quarterback Justin Daman said being in the final has helped the AA Crusaders gain some notoriety in the school when it usually toils in the shadow of the AAA program.

"It's very exciting for the school to have both teams in the final. For me, being in grade 12 and being on the same (championship game) level as the AAA while being able to lead with the rest of the AA captains, it's a pretty cool feeling," Daman said.

The AA team won its only title in 2004.

In the third championship game of the day, the West Kildonan Wolverines will meet the Kildonan East Reivers in the Currie Division's Canad Inns Bowl at 2:30 p.m.

West Kildonan, in just its third year in the WHSFL, is the only undefeated team in the league with a 9-0 record and headed to its first Bowl game.

"We have a number of grade 12 players and my big thing with them was never take things for granted and make the most of this opportunity," said head coach Neville Scarlett. The divisions are evaluated at the conclusion of each season with successful programs often offered the opportunity to move up a division.

Stacy Dainard, head coach of St. Paul's AAA team, said there is some pressure to win, having both teams in the championship.

"There is an expectation that we'll be very competitive and we expect that of ourselves," Dainard said. "In my head, our goal is just to be the best we can be at the end of the year."

The St. Paul's AA team includes mostly younger players since it is considered the development squad and so will be up against an older, more experienced team in Grant Park.

The Crusadrs' AA team's roster of 45 players includes 32 rookies.


Friday's schedule

2:30 p.m. Currie A division championship, Canad Inns Bowl, Centennial Trophy -- West Kildonan Wolverines vs. Kildonan East Reivers

5 p.m. Vidruk AA division, Free Press Bowl, Free Press Trophy -- Grant Park Pirates vs. St. Paul's AA Crusaders

7:30 p.m. Potter AAA division, ANAVETS Bowl, John Potter Memorial Trophy -- Oak Park Raiders vs. St. Paul's AAA Crusaders


All games Friday at Canad Inns Stadium

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2009 C5

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