It was a tale of two halves for the Carlton Crusaders and the St. Mary Marauders football teams as the cross-town rivals squared off in the annual Canadian Tire Classic.
But St. Mary managed to come away with a 22-8 win over the Crusaders, thanks in large part to power running back Ashton Hall, who shouldered the load through much of the game for his side.
Hall had two rushing touchdowns, plus a reception for a two-point convert on the night.
With the win, St. Mary earned its sixth consecutive Canadian Tire Cup, dating back to 2012.
Despite the win, Marauders head coach Curt Hundeby knows his side left points on the field, due to several holding penalties by the offence that stalled drives for his team.
“Our gun’s out of ammo, we shot ourselves so many times in the foot,” he said after the game.
Still, Hundeby said he was grateful for the win, emphasizing how tough it was to get.
“We know every year it’s not a guarantee, so we worked really diligently to get our guys ready, because we want that trophy staying in our school,” he said as his team hoisted the silver-clad prize.
After a defensive, gritty, scoreless first quarter for both teams, Hall and the Marauders rode a second-quarter explosion that saw him pound the ball on the ground and score all of his points.
Much of his side’s momentum in the quarter resulted from two Marauder interceptions, picked off by Hunter Boyer and Bradley Robertson. Both of those turnovers led to Hall’s rushing scores.
Quarterback Tyler Rock also connected with receiver Grant Alexander in the endzone for a late-quarter score to extend his side’s lead.
Hall was quick to deflect credit to his teammates after the win: “I’m not going to assess my own performance, because what I do is what the team does – the o-line, all of my blockers. That’s how I make those big runs,” he said.
Having a speed back to partner with in teammate Nick Otto-Love didn’t hurt either, Hall said.
“Nick’s not very tall or heavy like I am, but he’s a good, fast little kid. He’s got the heart: He’s not scared of anything and he takes the hits no problem; he’s all over the field,” he said.
St. Mary used Otto-Love’s speed on several pitch running plays throughout the game to open up holes in the middle for Hall.
Once the second half of the game started, Carlton buckled down and kept the Marauders off the scoreboard until the end of the game.
The Crusaders were aided by several undisciplined holding penalties from St. Mary, including back-to-back infractions that put the Marauders in third-and-plus-ten scenarios.
That drive ended in a blocked field goal by the Crusaders.
Carlton quarterback Jacques Lavoie managed to use that momentum – and his do-it-all skill set – to keep his team in the game until the end.
Lavoie used several quarterback draw plays to run the ball down field, eventually setting up a scoring play with 1:08 left in the game: He threw a 28-yard touchdown score.
“It was pretty awesome to get on the board. The boys came together for that one drive, and we did what we had to,” Lavoie said of the scoring drive.
He said the strong second half was a positive, but that his team needs to play complete games to be successful.
“We want to start out fast, and tonight just wasn’t the night. Hopefully next week,” he said.
Crusaders coach Lindsay Strachan said that despite the loss, he’s proud of his team for competing, especially as the Crusaders made their push in the last quarter.
“I thought we came out and competed. We played some of our best football to date. And I’m proud of what the boys invested in tonight, to be honest,” he said.
The Crusaders (0-3) will next play Bedford Road on Sept. 29 at home at Max Clunie field, while the Marauders (1-2) will travel to Saskatoon on the same day to take on Mount Royal.
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