After coming away victorious in their season-opening game on the road in Westlock last week, the St. Paul Regional Lions returned home to host the Wainwright Commandos in their 2018 home opener.
They walked away with a 29-6 win to advance their record to 2-0.
The Lions grabbed an early lead, scoring a quick touchdown in the first quarter before Wainwright even had a chance to pose any kind of significant threat.
Into the second quarter, Owen Breast converted on an end-zone running play to double the Lions’ lead, putting them up 14-0. It was just one of many fantastic plays by Breast on the night, who performed key functions and clutch plays on nearly every St. Paul drive.
Though just the second game of the season, tensions seemed to run high on the field. Still in the second quarter, Wainwright’s Brent Mcauley illegally tackled St. Paul’s Kelton Mangatal and proceeded to repeatedly hit him in the head. Several Lions ran to Mangatal’s aid, and the skirmish led to both Mcauley and Mangatal being removed from the field and, eventually, the remainder of the game.
With just over three minutes remaining the first half, the Commandos showed their first real signs of life. They blocked a St. Paul punt to gain fantastic position on the field at the 50-yard line. But they squandered their opportunity on the next down by illegally blocking a Lions player, forfeiting a chunk of their yardage on the play, before being sacked on the following down, effectively ending their best shot and putting points on the board during the half.
But a spot of bad luck and trouble on St. Paul’s part led to a golden opportunity for the Commandos. A poor pass in the midfield by the Lions was intercepted by a Wainwright player who ran the ball all the way back to finally put the Commandos on the board. St. Paul rallied and blocked the ensuing PAT, holding the Commandos at 14-6.
Kyler Tichkowsky made a final attempt to give the Lions another touchdown before the close of the first half, carrying the ball 35 yards plus 15 more off of an unnecessary roughness flag thrown Wainwright’s way. But the Lions weren’t able to seal the deal on a touchdown or a field goal, settling for a single-point rouge to end the first half with a score of 15-6.
St. Paul came out with an offensive mindset for the third quarter. Kicking to start, the Lions attempted an onside kick, but the ball was recovered by the Commandos. On the very next play, however, Wainwright fumbled the football. Breast recovered the fumble, running it 50 yards into the end zone for St. Paul’s third touchdown of the night. With the successful PAT, the Lions found themselves ahead by a solid 22-6 margin.
The Lions locked their second win of the season away in the final moments of the third quarter. Once again, Breast came up huge with a 30-yard sprint to the end zone, scoring his third and St. Paul’s fourth TD of the evening, bringing the score up to 29-6.
Wainwright had one final chance to score in the fourth quarter with the ball in the red zone. But with just a few yards between them and a touchdown, St. Paul’s defensive line shut them down time after time, preventing the Commandos from crossing the line and forcing a turnover on downs. The game drew to a close with no additional scoring.
“Both our O-line and our D-line were really solid tonight,” said Head Coach Mark Tichkowsky. “Our running game, in particular, was exceptional, and even though we don’t have a ton of Grade 12 players this year, we’re flooded with talented and athletic Grade 10 and 11 players, and they have been an enormous advantage so far this season.”
The Lions have just four seniors taking to the field this season, but according to Ben Fodchuk, one of those four, he and his senior teammates are ready to lead their younger counterparts whenever and however they may need.
“When you look at the points, it’s easy to think, ‘Wow, the offense played really well tonight,'” Fodchuk said after the game. “I think that even more important than that was our defense, which is mostly like the younger players. They know the game well and learn really fast, and that’s a huge help to the whole team.”
When asked what the biggest asset to the Lions has been so far this year, Fodchuk showed no hesitation. “[Owen] Breast, like, he just turned it on tonight. Obviously, this isn’t a one-man sport, and our entire team played really good, but Breast just was always in the right place at the right time to make the play.”
The Lions are at home again next Friday, hosting the Lloydminster Comprehensive High School Barons. The Barons are a solid team year in and year out, so the Lions will have to show the same level of competition next week. The game begins at 5:00 p.m. at St. Paul Regional.