It took seven attempts, but the Carlton Crusaders finally hoisted the Canadian Tire Cup Thursday night at Max Clunie Field.
A dominating performance in second quarter was the key for the Crusaders as they picked up a 26-14 victory over the arch-rival St. Mary Marauders in the Canadian Tire Classic.
“The feelings that we all have right now are similar to when we beat them in the playoffs last year, but there’s so much more on the line with the Cup being up for grabs,” Crusaders wide receiver Kael Leachman said.
“It’s honour to make history with these guys,” Crusaders running back Elijah McPherson added. “It’s the best game I’ve ever been a part of and I’m so happy to be on this team.”
Following a scoreless first quarter, the Crusaders raced out to a 20-0 lead in the second stanza as McPherson rushed into the end zone from six yards out on two occasions and Cody Huntley connected with Keone Tyler on a 19-yard pass.
“Our blockers kept giving me great holes and that’s all I could ask for,” McPherson said.
“We need to come out and play like that on offence the rest of the season. Our defence has been unreal all year with how they’ve kept us in games, so now it’s our turn to return the favour.”
The Crusaders, who have now won three straight games and have a 3-2 record, would round out their offensive outburst in the middle of the third quarter when Huntley hooked up with McPherson for a 49-yard touchdown reception.
“We got some momentum going in the second quarter as we capitalized on some great field position, and we just rode that wave for a bit,” Crusaders head coach Lindsay Strachan said.
“Our goal this year has been to be a better team on a weekly basis. I’m really proud of how our guys took care of business tonight. After a slow start for us, we’re really turning things around.”
The Marauders, who fell to 3-2 on the campaign with the loss, got their touchdowns late in the game on a three yard run by quarterback Kyle Witkowski and a four yard catch by Carter McDougall.
“We put ourselves in a really bad hole tonight, but I don’t want to take away from what Carlton did,” Marauders head coach Curt Hundeby said. “They battled hard on offence and they did a great job on defence to take away the things that worked well for us so far this year.
“It stings right now, but we still have a couple of games left to bounce back, fix our mistakes and get better.”
Both teams will be back in action next week as the Crusaders will host the 1-3 Marion Graham Falcons at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, while the Marauders will visit the 0-4 ED Feehan Trojans Friday in Saskatoon.