Carlton tops Tommy Douglas in frantic finish

Points were hard to come by for most of the night at the Saskatoon Minor Football Field Thursday.

Then everything was thrown out the window in the final minutes of a battle between the Carlton Crusaders and the Tommy Douglas Tigers.

After a trio of punt singles gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead, the Crusaders drove 70 yards in the final minutes before quarterback Cody Huntley rushed into the end zone from two yards out to take a 9-2 lead after a successful two-point convert.

On the ensuing kickoff with 30 seconds left on the clock, the Tigers would return the ball into the end zone for a touchdown, but the Crusaders came up with a key block on the point after attempt to take a 9-8 win and improve to 2-2 on the season.

“I asked the guys afterwards if they are trying to give me a heart attack with all these close games,” Crusaders head coach Lindsay Strachan said.

“We’ve been in a lot of tight games this year and our record could be a lot different if a play here or a play there goes in another direction. The amount of grit in our group is something that I like to see, especially when our back is against the wall.”

Although the offence didn’t click consistently until they threw the ball down the field on their last drive, the Crusaders defence was impressive from start to finish Thursday as they kept the Tigers offence off the scoreboard.

“They kept us in the game,” Strachan said. “They had a bend and not break attitude and they were able to force a couple of turnovers.

“Our offence wasn’t quite as sharp, but they came together late with some big plays. Our guys stepped up when we needed them to.”

With two straight wins to wrap up the month of September, the Crusaders have momentum on their side as they prepare for the annual Canadian Tire Classic with the St. Mary Marauders next Thursday night at Max Clunie Field.

The Marauders have won all six regular season meetings since the trophy was introduced in 2012, but the Crusaders came away with a playoff win against their crosstown rivals in November to capture the Division III championship.

“The efforts we’ve shown in our comebacks this year has been great,” Strachan said. “With that said, we’d like to see our guys have some better starts to avoid being in those backs against the wall situations heading into the second half of the season.

“There’s some things that we need to do a better job of executing on, but the way we’ve battled all year long is something we’re pleased about as a coaching staff.”

The Marauders, who have a 2-1 record, host the 1-1 Bedford Road Redhawks Friday at 6 p.m. at Max Clunie Field.