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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.