At this time of the year, during the Winnipeg High School Football League playoffs, when the importance of every game is magnified, all eyes will be focussed on IG Stadium, the home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday as the SRSS Sabres go up against the St. Paul’s Crusaders in the WHSFL semi-finals.
Well, at least there is playoff football being played this year at IG Field. The Bombers essentially blew any opportunity to host a playoff game this year as they completely tanked in the second half of their season. But that’s a topic for another day.
The plot lines have been thickening every day for Friday’s tilt between Sabres and Crusaders, with the kick-off going at 5:00 p.m.
The SRSS Sabres have been the story in Division I of the WHSFL this season. Considered as a possible top four team among the Division I teams this season, and that is exactly where the Sabres are today as they finished first overall in the Potter Division with a 6-1 record.
It all harkens back to game one of the season in early September when the Sabres lost 22-14 to those very same Crusaders at St. Paul’s. It was a loss, but only by eight points, a team the Sabres had lost in previous years by wide margins. It was an encouraging result of sorts.
What has transpired over the last two months for the Sabres has been mighty impressive as they finished off the regular season with six straight victories to finish first in their division and then made it seven wins in a row with an impressive 49-14 victory over the Sturgeon Heights Huskies last week, who were fourth in the Gustafson Division with a 2-5 record as teams cross over to play opponents in the opposite division in the first round of the playoffs.
All four quarter-finals went as expected, with the higher-ranked teams winning by decided margins.
St. Paul`s, third in the Potter Division, also with a 6-1 record, throttled Grant Park 46-7 in their quarter-final game. The other two match-ups had Dakota blanking River East 37-0 and defending champion Vincent Massey outscored Murdoch Mackay 35-8.
Dakota and Vincent Massey will square off at 7:30 p.m. in the other Division I semi-final Friday at IG Field, following the completion of the SRSS vs St. Paul`s game.
The SRSS playoff win over Sturgeon Heights last week was another complete team effort, with all three phases again contributing greatly to the victory.
The Sabres jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scoring converted touchdowns in both the first and second quarters, before the Huskies narrowed it to 14-6 at the half.
At half time, head coach Stephen Fedus said he challenged his team to be better in the second half, "we were just making too many mistakes." The speech evidently had the desired effect as the Sabres responded big time in the second half as they outscored the Huskies 35-8 in the final two quarters in a dominant half of play.
Offensively, the Sabres were again led by quarterback Sawyer Thiessen, a strong corps of receivers and bruising running back Isaac Dokken, who is near unstoppable.
Thiessen completed 10 of 23 passing attempts, including a 49-yard touchdown strike to Austin Dueck, who had two catches for 74 yards on the day. Thiessen spread the ball around as Payton Falk had three catches for 49 yards, Avery Penner caught two for 53 yards, Jaxon Gruninger had two grabs for 36 yards and there was a 34-yarder to Jayden Martens.
Thiessen also ran four times for 43 yards and all four of those runs resulted in touchdowns.
Dokken, meanwhile, rumbled for 132 yards on 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Payton Falk carried the ball another three times for 31 yards as the team ran for over 200 yards in the game.
Defensively, Thomas Peters led the way with an impressive nine tackles while Isaac Dokken had five tackles, a strip, a sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in just another day’s work for the two-way star.
Meanwhile, Payton Falk and Caelan Poetker had four tackles each while Ryan Kincaid Luke Mehling had three apiece. And on special teams, Rylan Penner converted on all seven point after attempts.
Fedus says although beating St. Paul’s in tomorrow’s big playoff game won’t be easy, "Our guys have experience and are a confident group, I don’t think they will be intimidated, they are looking forward to it."
Details on the championship game are still in the works, although it will likely be played on Saturday, Nov. 16, with the time still to be determined.