Football team storms back into win column - Oct. 16, 2013
Tammy McLaughlin photo
St. Stephen’s Anthony Bryant is tackled after a short run during Saturday’s 36-6 victory over Sussex.
The St. Stephen Spartans football team stepped back into the win column with a 36-6 victory over visiting Sussex Sonics Saturday, in the annual Nick Desilets Memorial Homecoming Game.
Angus Van Wagoner, took the ball to the house in all three phases of the game as he scored a touchdown on offence, another on special teams, and his final major score on the defensive side of the ball on the last play of the game.
“I felt like I was making a difference for the team, which is something I like doing. I think the main difference from Saturday and our last few games was our blockers really stepped up. As always we can always work on blocking and tackling and maybe next week we’ll hold them to zero points.”
When asked which of his three scores was the most special, Van Wagoner, named the Tim Hortons player of the game, had no hesitation to point towards his fourth-quarter, 80-yard kick-off return for a touchdown.
“My favourite TD was the 80-yard kick return. I liked the way we came together and all blocked which allowed me to get free.”
Along with that fourth quarter score, the Grade 11 player, who was starting his first game at the running back spot after playing wide receiver for the first four games of the season, had a 55-yard touchdown run on the last offensive play of the first half. He ended the game with eight carries for 96 yards.
On the defensive side, Van Wagoner was a force at his safety position recording five solo tackles and on the last play of the game he intercepted an errant pass, returning it for 55 yards and placing a very noticeable exclamation point on the day.
The home team dominated along the ground rushing for a total of 292 yards. Grade 11 running back Adam Tanner scored on two first quarter runs, of four yards and one yard respectively, to put the home team up early 14-0. Tanner finished the day with eight carries for a hard-fought 27 yards.
Grade 11 student Brandon Mofford had a strong day of playing ironman football as he also carried the ball eight times for 54 yards to go along with his three solo tackles and a blocked punt from his defensive end position.
The workhorse on the day was Anthony Bryant. The Grade 11 student carried the ball 17 times for 88 yards. Head coach Neil Grant was happy with the final result but even more ecstatic with the growth and contributions of his younger players.
“The expectations are always high on those seniors who have played for us in past seasons, but to see so many younger players stepping up and being key factors in our success is a great sight. After two games where we haven’t brought our best, it was nice to see smiles on the sideline with that final whistle.”
One of those seniors who has taken on a large leadership role this year is the SSHS Male Athlete for the month of September, quarterback Spencer Cleaves. He led the multiple scoring drives, and was also a disruptive thorn in the side of the visiting team’s offence from his outside linebacker spot. He ended the game with a team-high seven solo tackles, one sack, and a fourth quarter interception.
“I was happy with how the team came together and played through this game. My throwing game clearly wasn’t the best … but we think if I focus on it more this week we can make some changes. I think the difference on the defensive side of the ball was that everyone focused on their responsibility. There were still a few mistakes, but it was all in all a very effective day for defense.”
Other standouts, and all seniors, for the Spartans defense that held the Sonics scoreless until late in the fourth quarter were: nose tackle Joshua McLaughlin with six solo tackles, outside linebacker Anthony Barry with six solo tackles and a fumble recovery, defensive end Damian Brisley with two solo tackles and a safety, and linebacker Swade Ross who had three solo tackles to go along with his two sacks.
Barry was a perfect four for four on all extra points attempted and Brisley’s two-point safety rounded out the scoring. The Spartans end their regular season on the road with a Saturday game versus the 4-1 Olympiens from Odyssee in Moncton. With the squad securely in the fourth spot it seems like a rematch with the Sussex Sonics in two weeks will be the provincial quarterfinals and the last home game for the 2013 Spartans. Moving on to play beyond that will only be determined by the effort that they put on the field, but if they play together as a team as well as they did this past Saturday then a deep play-off run might just be a possibility.