Marauders Claim Tier II Championship 78-38
They didn’t score first or last, but the Vermilion Marauders put up 40 more points than the Vegreville Cougars to claim the Alberta 6-Man Football League Tier II championship by a 78-38 score.
It was the first title the Marauders have earned since joining the provincial 6-man league in the 2017 season.
Quietly resolved and steadfastly persistent the Cougars led twice in the first quarter and tied the game at 25 with 1:25 left in the half. They didn’t quit even when trailing by large margins and scored their final TD in the dying minute of the game.
It started with Aaron Mills first major when he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. The speedy Mills scored again with another long distance run on the last play of the first quarter. That put Vegreville up 12-8.
After scoring just one major in the first 12 minutes, the Marauders score three touchdowns in the second quarter. While both teams had four touchdowns in the half, Clay Corbiere’s foot provided the half time lead 31-25. He kicked three two-point converts compared to a single one-point convert by Vegreville.
Corbiere added a single point on an unsuccessful 35-yard field goal attempt. His kick had the distance, sailing through the endzone but not through the uprights.
Corbiere also rushed for two first half majors, one in each quarter. Other second quarter majors came on a 49-pass reception and run by Kolten Sheppard and a two-yard finish of a last minute drive by Jayden Lenz with 21 seconds on the clock.
The second half belonged to the Marauders from offensive, defensive and special teams play.
Seven touchdowns were obvious highlights. Two came from kickoff returns from tenacious plowing through would-be tacklers by Landyn Herzog. His first came on the second half’s opening kickoff and his second at 9:39 of the final quarter. The Cougars did manage to corral him on other returns, but it usually required tackle-by-committee. His jersey was tugged and stretched so much without ripping the manufacturer could have filmed a commercial about its durability.
Herzog was a potent force defensively. A league all-star from his rookie year as a grade nine, he has an innate knack for finding the ball carrier like a seek and destroy missile.
The Marauder defense fed off that passion and found ways to neutralize the Cougar attack. Every member of the defense contributed. Highlights included a massive sack by Harley Harms, several flying tackles by Skylar Dary, Regan Sargeant capturing Mills on a kickoff return, fellow rookie Adam Blackmore stopping an end zone surge and the two Hunters (L’Heureux and Conlin) earning enthusiastic “atta boys” from the bleachers and the bench.
On the offensive side, Jayden Lenz had one of his best games of the season with about 175 rushing yards. He provided the bulk of the yards in two drives and scored twice. He converted a first and goal on the two to give the Marauders the lead at half time. His second was the Marauders final touchdown, a 10-yard gallop. He also took a pitch from a bad convert snap into the endzone for the 78th point.
Kolten Sheppard battled the cold for 52 pass reception yards plus another 190 yards rushing. His longest run was a 49-yard touchdown at 4:43 of the third quarter.
Jonas Atkinson, who finished the game in Hanna as quarterback and got rocked himself, rushed for 30 yards and provided blocking and misdirection on offence.
Rookie quarterback Clay Corbiere finished his one and only high school football year with five touchdowns and over 125 yards on the ground in his final game.
While every point was cheered, some of the loudest reactions came from an 18-yard pass reception by lineman and senior Jayben Gamracy and three consecutive rushes from Mark Johnston. Usually he snaps the ball, but as the final quarter waned Johnston played running back carrying for two first downs and almost 30 yards.
The game was delayed late in the third quarter for more than half hour after William Sen, Vegreville’s quarterback, didn’t get up after a harmless looking tackle. Fans shared blankets and brought over a heater while waiting for first responders. Sen left the field via ambulance. He sustained a concussion, but not an injury to his neck or spine,
Marauders Points After: Herzog brought the Marauders on the field leading them in everywhere-we-go-people-want-to-know-who-we-are chant. They repeated the chant with their helmets held high after a post-game team photo in the endzone…The score clock no longer displayed time or score during the last three minutes – the cold froze the connection from the main control. Times had to be announced for officials and fans…The Marauders didn’t try short kicks often this season but did twice in the game as a strategy to keep the ball from Mills’ hands. One short kick hit a Cougar on the shin and bounced straight back to the Marauders…Vegreville was called offside a half dozen times on Vermilion convert attempts…Urns of coffee and hot chocolate were provided free on the sidelines by J R Robson School…A pep rally in the school halls buoyed the team before the game…The Marauders have played evening games under the lights before, but this was a first on their home field.