Wolves show class in vic­tory

Water­ford cap­tures Haldimand-nor­folk Bowl ti­tle

Simcoe Reformer - - SPORTS - JA­COB ROBIN­SON jrobin­son@post­media.com

WATER­FORD - There are emo­tional cham­pi­onship games, and then there’s the 2018 Haldimand­nor­folk Bowl.

The Water­ford Wolves and Mckin­non Park Blue Devils clashed for re­gional foot­ball supremacy on Satur­day in what turned out to be a roller coaster of an af­ter­noon.

The Blue Devils took to the field just three days af­ter los­ing player Spencer Ed­wards and his fa­ther, Don, in a fa­tal col­li­sion in Hagersville and looked poised to win their fourth ti­tle in five years.

In­stead, the Wolves erased any bad mem­o­ries from the 2014 ti­tle match when a botched field goal lost them the ban­ner. This time, rookie kicker Ben Baruth nailed a 35-yarder in the fi­nal mo­ments to give the Wolves a 22-21 win, their first ti­tle since 2013.

“We worked very hard for this win and we knew com­ing into this game it was go­ing to be a tough one and we had to work as a team,” said Water­ford’s Con­nor Walsh, the game’s MVP. “We know what hap­pened was ob­vi­ously a tragedy but we knew we had to still play our game, they were go­ing to play their game. We just knew we had to play a re­spect­ful game.”

Walsh racked up three touch­downs and also re­cov­ered two fum­bles on de­fence to help Water­ford erase a 21-6 third-quar­ter deficit and cap­ture the first ti­tle for ev­ery player on the squad.

Walsh said it was Water­ford’s vet­eran lead­er­ship that ul­ti­mately pulled them back from the brink.

“I think it was all our cap­tains, all our fifth years,” he said. “They re­ally got us mo­ti­vated and into it – they wanted to win be­fore they went out so them keep­ing us mo­ti­vated and mak­ing sure we don’t get down on our­selves re­ally pushed us.”

Play­ing by far their most dif- fi­cult con­test of the sea­son, the Blue Devils left noth­ing in the tank. Quar­ter­back Zach Mumby and re­ceiver Carter Muir put on a show, hook­ing up sev­eral times in­clud­ing on a pair of first-half touch­downs, the first com­ing via a one-handed, jug­gling catch. Mumby called his own num­ber on a one-yard plunge in the third to put Mckin­non Park ahead 15.

Though things didn’t work out on the score­board the Blue Devils ac­com­plished their ul­ti­mate goal.

“We came out here know­ing what was at stake and we played for our brother Spenny,” said Muir. “It sucks that he wasn’t here but we played our hearts out and I think he’d be proud of what we did to­day.”

Muir said it was dif­fi­cult at times for the team to fo­cus hav­ing lost two pop­u­lar mem­bers of the pro­gram but the squad also wanted to rally for the fam­ily.

“Get­ting up and know­ing you wouldn’t see him in the locker room be­fore prac­tice ev­ery day and talk to him (was tough, but) it mo­ti­vated us so much be­cause we knew what he would want us to do out here and we tried our hard­est to do it,” said Muir.

Fol­low­ing the na­tional an­them, the Wolves held their hel­mets in the air, salut­ing the Blue Devils. As the clock struck zero, they cheered and hugged but the cel­e­bra­tion was mostly sub­dued. In­stead, Water­ford gave the Blue Devils and their fans some space and went to the end zone to take pho­tos with the Times-re­former Cup.

“I want to say how proud I am of how the boys played in a close game and how proud I am of this league and the re­spect Water­ford showed, es­pe­cially at the end of the game,” said Blue Devils coach Ja­son Pud­will, who tear­fully ad­dressed the Wolves af­ter the con­test. “They just won a cham­pi­onship but they waited un­til we were done (talk­ing) and they cel­e­brated (at the end of the field) and I very much ap­pre­ci­ate that be­cause it shows class.”

With his usu­ally-po­tent of­fence do­ing very lit­tle to start the game, Wolves of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor An­drew Miller had faith his squad would be able to en­gi­neer a come­back. Miller said once Walsh and the run game be­gan to click, ev­ery­thing fell into place.

As for the game-win­ning field goal?

“I didn’t want to watch it but I watched it,” Miller laughed. “Ben hits those all the time so we knew if the line blocked it had a good chance of go­ing through. You get to the point you’re in scor­ing range and it has to work.”

Wolves fifth-year re­ceiver Josh Mackay ex­ited the game due to in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter but soon be­came the team’s big­gest sup­porter in his quest for a ring in his fi­nal game for WDHS.

“Ev­ery­one just kind of ral­lied be­hind all us guys that got hurt,” said Mackay. “We worked hard, ev­ery­one per­formed to the best of their abil­ity.”

It’s safe to say Mackay and the rest of the Wolves won’t soon for­get the kick heard round the county.

“I don’t think my heart stopped thump­ing that whole time,” Mackay laughed. “It felt good for the guys to do it for all us old guys.”

JA­COB ROBIN­SON/SIM­COE re­former

Josh Mackay hoists the Times-re­former Cup af­ter the Water­ford Wolves beat the Mckin­non Park Blue Devils 22-21 in the Haldimand-nor­folk Bowl at Water­ford District High School on Satur­day.

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