BY JACKIE LAROCQUE
It was a long haul to St. Paul for the H. J. Cody Lakers football squad and parents for their first provincial playoff game this season.
With the Lakers ranked seventh and St. Paul ranked third in the province’s Tier III division, it promised to be a game of skill and fight to see who progressed to the semi-finals. Fans and parents weren’t disappointed — cold — but not disappointed.
Halfway into the first quarter, Shon Zenert and Landon Rosene moved the ball inches away from a touchdown, enabling Trent Kondor to run the pass for the first points of the game.
St. Paul Lions put up a good try to score their first touchdown but Sulley Larocque with Shon Zenert tripped, flipped and slammed Lion after Lion. Not to be outdone, Kyle Eckenswiller and Josh Barrie flipped a few Lions into the cold field. The Lakers headed into the second quarter with a 7-0 lead.
It proved to be an exciting quarter with ups and downs. The Lions made their first touchdown early, tying the game.
Skylar Selk whipped the ball to Trent Kondor who had the ball tipped off his fingers, juggled it a bit, almost lost it, but recaptured the ball for a 50 yard run.
Fumbles on both sides, interceptions slipping from freezing fingers and missed kicks riddled the second quarter. A fake punt fooled the Lions enabling Sulley Larocque to grab a pass and bolt for a first down.
Back and forth went possession. Bryce Marshall and Ivan Mirafuentes blocked and held the Lions’ offense. Gokie Kataoka, covering the receiver, prevented a catch and tackled his charge to the ground.
But with all the tackles and coverage, the Lions managed to score another touchdown before half time. TJ Sloboda burst through the Lions line and blocked the ball preventing the convert.
The second half brought more chilling wind and skiffs of snow. Josh Barrie ran a touchdown bringing the score to 14-13 for the Lakers.
Skylar threw a 30 yard pass into the hands of Josh Barrie bringing the Lakers ever closer to the goal posts. A quick pass to Landon Rosene and the Lakers gained a lead of 21-13.
Chase Elwood, Liam Hoven, Bryce Marshall, Bradyn Marchessi and TJ Sloboda formed a wall that the Lions couldn’t penetrate very often. Sulley Larocque alligator rolled more than one Lion with the ball and Dylan Keller dove and splattered a few Lions on his own. Kyle Eckenswiller continued to drop in front of the ball runner, sending him flying into the dirt. Then the ball slipped from a Lion’s paws and Bryce Marshall, casually bent down and scooped the ball for a 50 yard gain.
The Lakers couldn’t gain the necessary yards and a Lion caught the punt in the end zone. Whichever way he went a Laker was there. Taking the road of safety, the Lion player took a knee, giving the Lakers two points, bringing the score to 23-13 for the Lakers going into the fourth quarter.
The winter chill started to seep into the bones of players on both teams and chattering teeth of parents set the background for a nail biting final quarter.
The Lions made a breakaway early dodging Lakers and getting into the Lakers’ zone. Determined not to allow any more breakaways, the defense tightened up and Bryce Marshall managed to push the quarterback away from the goal posts 15 yards.
Gaining possession of the ball, the Lions also prevented the Lakers from any significant yardage. Then the Lions make another breakaway to score a touchdown bringing the score to 23-20 for the Lakers.
Back and forth, parents on both sides bit their nails. Skylar Selk, given time by the offense line, aimed and fired the ball to Landon Rosene who took off like a blur for a 45 yard touchdown. Aden Smaill made yet another conversion kick putting the Lakers ahead 30-20.
The Lions make yet another breakaway, causing Ben Butcher to be helped off the field after he tried to trip up the ball runner and got run over himself. Braydn Marchesi, Chase Elwood, Liam Hoven burst through the Lions’ line enabling Sulley Larocque to sack the quarterback. But despite the defense blocking and tackling, the Lions managed to score. Again the conversion was blocked, bringing the score to 30-26 for the Lakers.
The Lions and Lakers battled in the Lakers’ zone with the Lions determined to get over the line for one last touchdown. The Lakers were equally determined to hold the Lions at bay during the last seconds of the game.
With ten seconds left, the Lakers got possession of the ball. Skylar took a knee to run the clock out and the Lakers won.
The Lakers play the north final against Ardrossan Bisons, Saturday at 4 p.m. at ME Global Athletic Park in Lacombe.