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Photo Credit: Tiffany Hart Photo
The Sarnia Imperials beat the Steel City Patriots 44-15 in a Northern Football Conference semifinal Saturday.
The Sarnia Imperials are going back to the Northern Football Conference championship game.
The Imperials beat the Steel City Patriots 44-15 in a semifinal Saturday in Burlington.
“The boys played great and kept very calm, but when pushed emotionally after half the guys just reeled each other in and knew we had bigger things ahead,” head coach Jake Cherski wrote to the Observer. “I’m so proud of this bunch. We are coming together finally and feel we have a great chance next week in Toronto versus the national champs.”
The Imperials (8-2) will visit the GTA All Stars (10-0) in the final this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Brampton’s Terry Fox Stadium.
The All Stars shut out the Ottawa Sooners 29-0 in the other semifinal.
The Imperials are in the NFC final for the second time in three years. They lost to the All Stars 29-21 in the 2016 final.
They’re seeking the first championship in franchise history.
“I want to ensure to this bunch that we have the tools to compete and that we won’t be bullied around,” Cherski wrote. “It’s our time. We have worked hard to build a top competitor team and, with making the championship game two of the past three seasons, we are ready to topple the giant. …
“The city is waiting for a champion football team and nothing would be better to represent Sarnia in the national championship game.”
Imperials quarterback Julian Shadd-Gentry completed seven passes for 107 yards. He ran for one touchdown and threw another to Josh Wright.
RJ Trice returned an interception for a 58-yard touchdown. Justin Nicolaisen also scored on an interception.
The Imperials had five interceptions, including two by Quade Krosch. Corey Howell had the other.
Jay Kelly also scored a touchdown on a return.
“Kelly had an amazing game and was all over the field,” Cherski wrote. “… (He) played his head off today. Clearly our player of the game and I guess if he goes, we all go.”
Mitch Haunnesh kicked a 27-yard field goal and was 5-of-6 on extra points. Bob Artell had 44 rushing yards and Austin Colter returned an onside kick 42 yards.
Dan White, Cody Burt and Dalton Gilmore each made a team-high four tackles.
The All Stars beat the Imperials 38-9 in the season opener May 26 at Norm Perry Park. The Imperials also lost their second game, but they’ve won eight in a row since then.
“As long as we take things serious at practice next week, we should be able to give the All Stars a good game,” Cherski wrote. “Our boys have to be disciplined and come to work this week and if they can listen, pay attention and commit to the process everything is going to be OK. All we want to do is give ourselves a chance and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The fan bus for the championship game will leave Sarnia at 3:30 p.m. The $60 fee includes a game ticket and a meal (hotdog or hamburger, chips, and pop).
At least 50 fans are needed for the bus. Payment is required before Thursday. Contact Cherski at 519-312-1364.
For the GTA Allstars it was a perfect season. It all began on May 27th 2017 with a 14-0 victory over a game-ready Ottawa team. As the weeks went on the questions about the abilities of the GTA AllStar team to live up to their 2016 season fell to the side as did their opponents. The coaching and the players refined their skills and played great football. As the season moved forward it became obvious that the GTA Allstars were excellent on all sides of the ball. They could stonewall and shut down any offence and then unleash it’s high-powered offence to march down the field.
All of the gears and cogs moved in alignment to earn the GTA Allstars a perfect regular season posting 8 wins and 0 losses with 307 points for and only relinquishing 71 to all of their opponents. The GTA Allstars earned the first place berth in the NFC Championship. The first to fall was the returning North Bay Bulldogs who put up a valiant effort in their game against the defending champions but the score of 34- 0 sent them home. The Sarnia Imperials stepped up to the challenge after winning an exciting contest against the Ottawa Invaders. The GTA All Stars overcame the Sarnia team to advance to the finals 35-0.
The challengers in the finals, the Tri-City Outlaws, were a formidable force and the 2nd ranked team in the regular season with an impressive 6-2 record. It took the Dan Diagle lead offence to finally put points against the Allstars for the first time in the 2017 tournament. The Outlaws looked strong and ready. Then the tide shifted to the number one seed. The GTA Allstars then unleashed it’s offence to take advantage of the few minor mistakes made by the Outlaws to put up 29 points via touchdowns by play makers: Phil Dixon, Jahmeek Murray, Kevin Walsh and Quincy Van De Cruize. The GTA kicker Ovi Coca added four converts and a rouge to the point total. In the end the powerhouse Outlaw team couldn’t dethrone the champions. The GTA All Stars took home the title over a tough Outlaw team.
Congratulations to our 2017 NFC Champions the GTA Allstars. The dynasty continues as they reign once again holding the throne they first took in 2015, defended in 2016 and clutch with an iron grip in the 2017 season.
Three years ago, football players Jesse Maddox and David Bosch, both known for their defensive abilities, went on the offensive.Working to create a senior men’s football team in Fort McMurray, the duo didn’t just want to be good, they wanted to be the best.Saturday, the Fort McMurray Monarchs reached that pinnacle of excellence, capturing the Canadian Major Football League national championship with a 59-45 victory over the defending champion Greater Toronto Area All Stars. “This one’s not just about us, this one’s a community thing and I think this is a great storybook ending,“ said Maddox.
Saturday’s success was a testament to the bumps along the way in the three years it took to reach that moment. In year one, the team found its legs in a competitive Alberta Football League. A year later, the Monarchs added head coach Dave Spence and a wealth of offensive talents, improving their game by leaps and bounds.
In 2016, when it seemed as though everything was about to fall apart, it all came together. Forced from their home in May, just weeks before they were to play full-time at Shell Place, the Monarchs rebounded by making Spruce Grove their temporary home.
When the Central Alberta Buccaneers exposed the Monarchs in the second week of the season, Fort McMurray once again fought back, eventually topping the Bucs in the AFL Championship game.
For Maddox, it was the players cohesiveness that kept the team from fraying.
“At the end of the day, the camaraderie, the manhood, the family is there this year,” he added. “It’s deep this year and I think that’s why we’re able to overcome some things that we wouldn’t have last year.”
In Saturday’s championship game, it was one of those adjustments, the addition of quarterback Will Arndt, that made the biggest difference. His four rushing touchdowns led the way offensively, starting the scoring in the game on the Monarchs’ second drive and sealing the victory in the fourth quarter.
When it wasn’t Will Arndt rushing through a heavy All Stars defense, Jourdain Alexis came up with an interception on defense or a big return on special teams. Further up the field, Maddox and Bosch haunted All Stars quarterback Tommy Denison all night.
“There were a couple drives where we needed to get a score, they got some momentum and we found ways to grind out the drives,” said Arndt. “I think guys were getting a little complacent, but ultimately a really great, resilient effort by our guys.”
The win was a special one for Spence, who added his third national championship in three years and Maddox, who earned his second. With a shower of water for the second time in as many games, Spence could only help but reflect on what his team had gone through this season and where they were now.
“We’ve had practices when we first started out with 10 guys,” said Spence. “It grew and grew and we were all displaced and they really came together.
“To do it with this group after the adversity that we’ve had to overcome, it’s really special.”
It wasn’t the shutdown or cakewalk as the All Stars provided a significant challenge to the Monarchs. Trailing by 18 at the half, the visitors came out with a different intensity in the third quarter, bringing the game to as close as nine points in the third quarter, but never any closer.
“We fought with everything we had there,” said All Stars quarterback Tommy Denison. “They kept scoring, they put more points on us.
“Our defense was a little banged up; they kept doing everything we couldn’t. I’m proud of our guys, how hard they fought.”
As good as this Monarchs team was, it won’t be the same squad suiting up to defend their AFL title next year. For now though, the moment of being a national champion is one for the team savored as they drank from bottles of champagne moments after entering their locker room after the win.
“To be a champion in anything, it’s not easy to do in life,” said Arndt. “I’ve got a bond with these guys forever as national champions
The GTA All-Stars fended off the Sarnia Imperials in the NFC finals to earn the opportunity to become repeat National Champions. The Monarchs captured their first AFL championship by making a second half come back over the Central Alberta Buccaneers. This yearly collision of east versus west will see last years champions the GTA All-Stars try to continue their dominance over the NFC and CMFL by vanquishing the new threat. This has the makings of a great match up for the National Championship.
The contest will take place at SMS Equipment Stadium.
Poster Credit: Fort McMurray Football Club