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This article was published 5/11/2021 (239 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the biggest game of the season (so far), Seth Chizda had a performance for the ages.
The 17-year-old Grant Park cornerback snatched a crucial drive-snuffing interception in the first quarter and caught four passes for 120 yards, including a 50-yard catch-and-run for a major in the second quarter while moonlighting as a slotback to lead the Pirates to a 25-8 victory over the St. Paul's Crusaders in Winnipeg High School Football League first division semifinal action at Eastside Eagles Field.
The result put the 5-0 Pirates into position to earn the the school's first ever title in the WHSFL's top tier.
"It feels good but we still have another game next week and that's what I'm focused on now," said a subdued Chizda, exhausted after his team manhandled a league powerhouse accustomed to winning these sorts of games.
In Friday's late semifinal, the Vincent Massey Trojans drubbed the Dakota Lancers 38-7 to advance. Massey and Grant Park will meet at Eastside in Friday's first division final at 7:30 p.m.
Grant Park's gang-tackling defence combined with a varied offensive attack was just too much for the Crusaders and the two-way exploits of players such as Chizda, who's also used on special teams, slammed the door shut on any St. Paul's comeback hopes.
"It's playoff time," said Pirates head coach Doug Kovacs. "Our best players play both ways and it's high school football. He's been our star corner for all five games and we've just been working him in (as a slotback) more and more."
Grant Park controlled the first half but a one-yard touchdown run just before halftime by St. Paul's fullback Tommy Stefanson brought the Crusaders close, trailing 9-6 at the intermission.
But in a pivotal third quarter, Crusaders tailback Olu Akinola was stuffed on a third-and-one to give the Pirates the ball on the St. Paul's 41-yard line.
Grant Park quarterback Solomon Bond promptly hit Chizda for 33-yard gain before Rylan Mitchell rumbled to paydirt from the two-yard line, increasing the lead to 16-6.
"In the regular season, we made a lot of errors and continually gave the ball back to them," said Crusaders head coach Stacy Dainard. "They're obviously a very talented, big, strong team, so you can't keep giving them opportunities on short fields. Our hope this week was we wouldn't do that and obviously that third and one didn't help."
On Grant Park's next possession, Donovan Dobson scored another major from six yards out and soon after the Pirates added their second safety of the game to take a 25-6 lead into the third quarter. A trip to the final was firmly within their grasp.
"I would have to tell you that they've been there before, they know that this is just one game but they also know it's division one football, right?" said Kovacs. "They know they have to earn it. You can see by today — they played their asses off the whole game."
Vincent Massey, 11-7 losers to Grant Park during the regular season, will be a major challenge. Chizda was asked if he feared a letdown after such an emotional win over St. Paul's.
"I don't think so," said Chizda. "We're a great team. We work hard at practice and we'll work hard in the (final)."
Kovacs, who took over the school's football program in 2011, said he was humbled by the magnitude of his team's accomplishment.
"I have no words right now," said Kovacs. "I mean, just a credit to (assistant coaches) Darryl Gershman and Mike Kennedy and the program we've put together. I don't know, I guess it'll sink in on Monday, but I'm just so thankful to our coaching staff."
Trojans 38 Lancers 7
Everett Reid set the tone early, catching a 30-yard touchdown pass and running a punt back 80 yards for another score to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Jalen McDonald added a trio of majors -- one on a 32-yard touchdown reception and another on a 60-yard fly sweep — for the winners. Siju Bodunrin added a two-yard TD run for Massey, which led 38-7 after three quarters.
Tyrell Davis had the lone touchdown on a three-yard run for the Lancers.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.