Crusaders top Falcons in Thursday night thriller

Daily Herald File Photo Carlton Crusaders wide receiver Kael Leachman, seen here during a game earlier this season, had the lone touchdown Friday in a 9-7 win over the Tommy Douglas Tigers in the SSSAD Division II final.

In a season where they’ve been involved in a number of dramatic affairs, the latest contest for the Carlton Crusaders might go down as their most exciting of the campaign.

With 14 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, quarterback Cody Huntley connected with Kael Leachman on a 25 yard pass for a touchdown as the Crusaders improved to 4-2 in Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate play with a 34-29 triumph over the Marion Graham Falcons at Max Clunie Field.

“This has been one of those years where we have found ourselves in scenarios where we need to put something together at the end of the game, so it really felt like the same old situation for us,” Crusaders coach Lindsay Strachan said.

“Our guys don’t quit out there. Obviously, I’d love to not be in those situations so often, but our team never gives up and they find a way.”

Leachman’s game-winning score came 38 seconds after the Falcons had taken the lead, as Tairk Deihl made a 41-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Kaden Wright and running back Andrew Smith was successful on a two-point conversion.

“We were in a bit of disbelief really,” Leachman said. “We knew that we had to march down the field as soon as we could to get things going.”

On a night where so many players contributed to the Crusaders victory, Brandon Perreault arguably made the biggest play of the contest on the final drive as he made a leaping catch over a pair of Falcons defenders to get the ball past midfield and set the stage for Leachman’s heroics.

“The ball must have bounced off a knee or a leg or something for him to come up with it,” Strachan said.

“That ended up being huge for us at it allowed us to set things up on offence, and it put their guys into a situation on defence where they thinking about protecting the end zone.”

Huntley also connected with Leachman on a 35-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and threw a14-yard strike to Keone Tyler early in the second half.

Crusaders running back Elijah McPherson also played a key role in his team’s triumph, as he scampered down the sidelines on a 56-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and put the team out in front late in the third frame on a six-yard score.

“It’s what we’ve come to expect from him,” Strachan said. “He’s a tough, physical and durable player that’s going both ways on the field for us. He’s doing a heck of a job.”

The Falcons, who fell to 1-5 with Thursday’s loss, relied on the powerful arm of Wright on offence as he threw a trio of touchdown passes.

Diehl was on the receiving end of two of those scores, while Nolan Schmidt also reached the end zone.

Smith rounded out the scoring for the visitors with a 75-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.

With four straight wins ahead of their regular season finale at home next Friday against the 0-5 ED Feehan Trojans, the Crusaders find themselves in control of their own destiny in their quest for a playoff spot.

“That was a big game for us in terms of locking up a place in the Division II playoffs in a couple of weeks,” Strachan said.

“We’re in a much more favourable position now than we would have been if the Falcons had beat us, otherwise we’d be in a situation where everything would be out of our hands.”

Meanwhile, the 3-2 St. Mary Marauders will be back in action Friday in Saskatoon as they’ll take on the 2-3 Bethlehem Stars.

They’ll wrap up their regular season slate at Max Clunie Field next Thursday evening against the 1-5 Tommy Douglas Tigers.