It was an ideal start to the season for the Swift Current Comp. Colts in the Moose Jaw High School Football League.
A young and inexperienced Colts team opened the season with a 28-21 win over the Moose Jaw Vanier Vikings on the road Saturday.
“Obviously it was a pretty big day for us,” said head coach Derek Murdoch. “As a group of guys who have been beating each other up every day for two weeks to get ready for a game, today it was pretty exciting.”
Austin LaRochelle scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run with 1:32 left to clinch the win. The Colts had trailed 14-6 at halftime before outscoring their opponent 22-7 in the second half.
The Colts gave up a pair of touchdown runs to Moose Jaw’s Drew Nimegeers in the first half and were only able to respond with a couple of 25-yard field goals from Zac Nickel to trail by eight points at halftime.
“We started a little bit slow but our defense held us in,” explained Murdoch. “We were down 14-6 at the half. We had kicked a couple of field goals and we felt like we left some points on the field without finishing drives.”
The Colts’ defense hunkered down in the second half and their offense responded with three majors. They scored on a 66-yard run from Marcus Mayall and then tied the game with a two-point conversion from Dalton Christianson. Quarterback Grady Lamontagne plunged into the endzone and Nickel made the extra point for a 21-14 lead after three quarters.
Vanier tied the game with a third Nimegeers’ touchdown with 3:57 left on the clock before LaRochelle ran into the endzone only 2:25 later for a 28-21 final in favor of the visitors.
“We weren’t too panicked and we made some adjustments,” said Murdoch of the second-half turnaround. “Offensively we just moved the ball so well in the second half. Our defense was really good in the second half only giving up the one touchdown.”
Lamontagne finished 16-for-22 for 214 yards through the air. Murdoch pointed out that his veteran quarterback made good decisions all afternoon.
His primary target was Mayall, who finished with nine catches for 148 yards. “None of them were real deep throws, it was just that he made good decisions after he caught the ball and guys were blocking for him,” said Murdoch.
LaRochelle averaged 7.2 yards on five carries and added two receptions for 31 yards. Jackson Goodfellow ran 10 times for 27 yards.
The Colts finished with 14 first downs, 66 yards on the ground, and 214 yards through the air. “I think we moved the ball really well throwing our short passing game and then guys were making some blocks,” said Murdoch.
The Colts defense allowed 283 yards along the ground but limited Vanier to only 45 yards through the air. “It was the old ‘bend, don’t break’ thing. If we are only giving up one touchdown in the second half, we’ll take that every game,” said Murdoch.
The Colts were the more disciplined team as well, surrendering 45 yards on four penalties, while Vanier was flagged for 120 yards on 10 penalties.
Murdoch agreed that it was crucial for his young team to get an early win. “There were times where we had four grade nines on the field defensively and they gutted it out and played really well. You could see what it meant to our guys and they were a pretty happy group at the end of the day.”
In other Moose Jaw High School Football League opening weekend action, visiting Moose Jaw AE Peacock hammered Estevan 56-6 Friday. The Weyburn Eagles opened their season with a 31-8 win over Moose Jaw Central on Saturday as well.
The Colts will play their first of three regular season home games on Saturday when they host the Moose Jaw Central Cyclones (0-1).
“They have lots of bodies and I think they have some older guys,” said Murdoch in looking forward towards the Cyclones. “They are going to be creative offensively, that is kind of their signature. Hopefully our defensive guys can just keep getting better every day. I think offensively we just keep going with what we’ve got. We will line it up and it will be kind of fun to see where we are at.”
Saturday’s game between the Colts and Cyclones will begin at 1 p.m. at Colts Field.