Ma­raud­ers miss their mark St. Marry quar­ter­back leaves game, re­turns to earn near-come­back win

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - SPORTS - EVAN RAD­FORD

If it’s the duty of a quar­ter­back to carry his team on his shoul­ders, then Tyler Rock earned that at­tribute Fri­day night at Max Clu­nie field.

His St. Mary Ma­raud­ers ul­ti­mately fell 37-23 to the Saska­toon Bethlehem Stars in what was the school’s last home game of the year.

The loss wasn’t for lack of ef­fort on Rock’s part.

He took a vi­cious hel­met-to-hel­met hit from a Stars de­fender in the sec­ond quar­ter, limped off the field with the help of train­ers and then re­turned in the third quar­ter to even­tu­ally lead the Ma­raud­ers’ of­fence to within a touch­down of ty­ing the game, lit­tle more than three min­utes re­main­ing.

It was his nine-yard touch­down pass to Grant Alexan­der at 8:36 of the fi­nal quar­ter that nar­rowed the Stars lead to 30-22. The con­verted PAT made it 30-23.

The Ma­raud­ers’ spe­cial teams then took over: They squibbed an on­side kick, saw it bounce un­der and off the hands of two Stars re­turn­ers, and then they re­cov­ered it to keep the St. Mary of­fence on the field.

But undis­ci­plined penal­ties, a fe­ro­cious Bethlehem de­fen­sive line and an in­con­sis­tent Marauder run game pre­vented St. Mary from fin­ish­ing.

Even af­ter throw­ing for two touch­downs and 161 yards, an emo­tional Rock was quick to shift com­pli­ments to his dual-threat run­ning backs, Ash­ton Hall and Nick Otto-Love.

“I think we have prob­a­bly one of the best 1-2 punches in the back­field in the whole en­tire league, as far as I’m con­cerned,” he said af­ter the loss, which was be­gin­ning to sink in.

Hold­ing back tears, Rock said “They re­ally played their hearts out. That’s all I could ask,” as if he wanted to do more for the win in the fi­nal three min­utes.

“It’s a tough loss for ev­ery­body,” Otto-Love said af­ter the game. His 20yard touch­down run at 2:53 of the first quar­ter helped his team take the early lead. Hall fin­ished the game with 94 rush­ing yards on six at­tempts to lead his team on the ground, but he had no touch­downs.

“Our of­fence came out re­ally good at the start. And then we started to lag a bit in the sec­ond quar­ter and started tak­ing some bad penal­ties.

“Those mis­takes are fix­able. There’s noth­ing we can do about that now, but we had a lot of chances to win this game,” Otto-Love said.

The Ma­raud­ers and the Stars took an equal amount of penal­ties – 11 – but it was the home side that seemed to form a habit earn­ing in­frac­tions while their of­fence was on the field.

That ef­fec­tively killed the mo­men­tum that Rock, Hall, Otto-Love and Alexan­der gen­er­ated dur­ing drives.

Hall was ef­fec­tive in bowl­ing over de­fend­ers, as was Otto-Love in evad­ing them. And Rock con­nected with Alexan­der on a spec­tac­u­lar 20-plusyard catch where Alexan­der jumped and beat the de­fender for the ball.

But those penal­ties and the Stars’ front-seven on de­fence wound up sti­fling a St. Mary come­back.

Ma­raud­ers’ head coach Curt Hun­deby had a sim­i­lar as­sess­ment as that of his play­ers.

“We weren’t dis­ci­plined like we needed to be. We just didn’t fin­ish. We had guys open and we didn’t squeeze the ball. We had op­por­tu­ni­ties to make plays and we didn’t tackle. Just all over. We just didn’t fin­ish,” he said.

The Stars bested the Ma­raud­ers on the ground, run­ning for 222 to­tal yards. St. Mary tal­lied 164.

The Saska­toon squad re­lied on their own 1-2 rush­ing threat. John Con­tr­eras and Al­fred Men­doza each rushed for 87 yards – Con­tr­eras on nine car­ries, earn­ing two touch­downs, and Men­doza on eight car­ries with one touch­down.

Bethlehem’s of­fen­sive coaches ef­fec­tively called hand­offs, fake hand­offs and lots of pre-snap mo­tion to cre­ate space in the Ma­raud­ers de­fence for the two backs to gain yards.

Then there was the es­cape-abil­ity of Stars quar­ter­back Artem Doroshenko. Not only did he have the tenac­ity to es­cape the pocket once it col­lapsed on him, cour­tesy the Maru­aders’ pres­sure, he had the poise to make ac­cu­rate throws on the run.

He fin­ished the game with 167 pass­ing yards on six com­ple­tions of 17 at­tempts with one touch­down. He also threw one in­ter­cep­tion. But it was Doroshenko’s knack for es­cap­ing pres­sure that cre­ated even more space in the Ma­raud­ers’ de­fence.

“Over­all, they played a tighter game than we did from start to fin­ish,” Hun­deby said.

The Ma­raud­ers fin­ish their reg­u­lar sea­son at 2-5. They now await how they’ll be drawn into the play­offs, which start next week. Bethlehem fin­ishes the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 3-4 record.

EVAN RAD­FORD/DAILY HER­ALD

Bethlehem Stars re­turn de­fender John Ben­nett (38) knocks the ball out of the hands of St. Mary’s Kee­gan Kelly (33) on a punt re­turn in the sec­ond quar­ter.

EVAN RAD­FORD/DAILY HER­ALD

Bethlehem Stars quar­ter­back Artem Doroshenko (5) evades pres­sure from the St. Mary Ma­raud­ers de­fence and then com­pletes a pass.

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