Peter Walsh photo/Telegraph-Journal
Gutsy Greyhounds advance
by Kevin Barrett - Monday, October 27, 2008
This article is courtesy of Telegraph-Journal
SAINT JOHN - As the final seconds counted down, Caleb Jones eyes shone in pride and amazement. The powerful running back had just led his Saint John Greyhounds to a 34-13 playoff victory over the Fredericton Black Kats in a Friday night special at Millidgeville Field and just prior to the gun, he took a second to absorb what his team had just accomplished.
"For as long as I have been here, they have had the biggest players, the fastest players," said Jones in reference to the Kats, who had played in the past five New Brunswick High School Football league finals.
"But this year, the league was a little more balanced and tonight, we executed. We played our type of football."
Sparked by a dominating defense that allowed just two first downs in the final three quarters, the Greyhounds used three touchdowns from Matt Doucet and two more from Jones, to pull away in the final 25 minutes and advance to the provincial semifinal, which they will host next week.
Not counting a three-year stint from 2001-2003 when the Greyhounds were in the provincial 10-man league, it's the first time they have been this close to the Ed Skiffington trophy since 1996, when they lost a provincial semifinal to Fredericton.
"For us to do this in a playoff game, on our home field, against this team, it is a big deal for us," said Doucet, who scored on runs of 23, 17 and two yards, all in the second half.
Jones scored a pair of first half touchdowns and Dan Duplessis added four conversions as Saint John went to 8-0.
Fredericton quarterback Jeff Madsen struggled with the offense all evening but managed to punch in a couple of short runs, the second with 1:53 left in the third quarter to make it 20-13. It came just after Ryan Murphy broke free for a 65-yard scamper to the Saint John one-yard line (as it turned out, it was the lone Kats first down in the second half until there was less three minutes remaining).
But the Kats failed on the ensuing on-side kick (although they protested strongly that they did get it, they were successful).
From there, it was all Greyhounds.
"That (not getting the kick) took all of our momentum away and from there, they really took over the game," said Madsen.
Jones set the tone early, scoring on a 65-yard burst in the game's opening minutes before Madsen scored on a sneak late in the first quarter.
Fredericton missed the extra point, and because of stellar defensive play by both sides, it stayed that way until late in the half, when Madsen and the Kats had good field position at their own 45 with 1:38 to go.
But Duplessis picked off a Madsen pass and ran it back to the Fredericton 45. Then Jones, on a flea-flicker, connected with receiver Chris Tilley to put the ball at the Fredericton 18-yard line.
After three subsequent runs, Saint John had a third and goal at the FHS two-yard line with 30 seconds remaining - easily in chip shot field goal range for Duplessis.
However, Greyhounds head coach Dave Grandy opted to go for the major and Jones rewarded that faith by powering in on a two-yard sweep to the right side for a signature score.
"It was a statement play," Jones said. "We wanted the touchdown."
In the second half, both offenses started slow but the Greyhounds were gaining so much confidence in their defence, they gambled often, converting a fake punt on third and 10 from midfield when Jones rumbled 32 yards down the left side.
Doucet raced into the end zone on a similar path on the very next play for a 20-6 lead with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
Fredericton closed that gap quickly after Murphy's magic run that Madsen punched in but the Greyhounds defense sacked Black Kats punter AJ Durling at his own 31 on the first snap of the fourth quarter and four plays later Doucet danced in from 17 yards.
And after the Greyhounds forced a two and out on the next series, Doucet banged in from two yards - thanks in large part to another Jones run on third and 12 that led to a first down at the Fredericton 31 yard line.
"It makes me so happy I could do this for my team," said the Grade 11 Doucet of his three-touchdown night.
As for the Black Kats, the season ended with a 4-1 regular-season record and a 1-1 slate in the playoffs.
They also lost 20-7 to Saint John in the pre-season.
Madsen took the blame for Friday's result, crediting a powerful Saint John pass rush with the team's ineffective offence.
"I'll put this game on my shoulders, going 3-for-20 or whatever it was," he said. 'It was the worst time to have the worst game of the season."