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PETE LUCAROTTI – Herald-Tribune sports
It was almost like the Grande Prairie Drillers didn’t want to beat the reigning national champion Calgary Wolfpack on Saturday.
It certainly didn’t look like they wanted to win comfortably. The Drillers held leads of 16, 21 and 12 points in their home-opener. Only the last lead stood, and just barely, in a 54-49 Grande Prairie win.
“I saw the mental lapse definitely happen, but in saying that it was really nice to see the guys pick up and bear down when we had to,” said Drillers head coach Tim Skene. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We did see a little bit of early celebration of our sidelines and knowing this team I knew it was going to cost us and it just about did.”
The Drillers were able to jump out to an early lead with two rushing touchdowns by running back Holdyn Lorentz. A field goal by Tyler Fulmek had the Drillers up 17-1 with six minutes remaining in the first half.
Two quick Wolfpack touchdowns, both with successful two-point conversions, and the lead was gone. But the Wolfpack left about a minute on the clock for the Drillers to work with. Quarterback Nathan Aldred found Brent Fulmek in the end zone on the final play of the half to regain the Drillers’ momentum.
Grande Prairie started the second half the same way it started the first. Aldred connected with Fulmek for another touchdown. Donald Jones also had a receiving touchdown as the Drillers built what seemed like an insurmountable 21-point lead.
But the Wolfpack are national champions for a reason. Calgary started its comeback after Drillers’ punt returner Will Quintal fumbled, giving Calgary good field position. After the Wolfpack scored their first touchdown of the half, the Drillers couldn’t stop them from scoring another, and another, and another. “We were trying to force them to the middle, but we just couldn’t do it,” Quintal said. “They were just picking us apart in little spots, one at a time.” “We were panicking there a lot. When they got near the end zone there we didn’t know what to do. We got down on each other and that’s what we need to not do.”
The Drillers’ offence woke up just in time. Aldred again found Brent Fulmek in the end zone. Grande Prairie was able to put together another scoring drive on its next possession when John Warr caught Aldred’s fifth throwing touchdown of the day.
The Wolfpack scored again with under two minutes left, but the Drillers recovered the onside kick. Colton Hodges was able to run the ball up the middle for just enough yardage to gain a Drillers first down with 30 seconds remaining to close out the game.
“We came back a couple of times. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time at the end,” said Wolfpack quarterback, Darryl Leason. “We’re looking forward to playing them again in the playoffs. Hopefully we’ll have a full roster by then. I think we were missing eight starters and five on defence, so it shows out there. Hats off to them. They did what they had to do out there to get the win.”
The win marks the second time in as any years the Drillers have beaten the Wolfpack to start the regular season 2-0. Skene said before this season started that the team peaked with its 44-42 victory over Calgary. By the time the playoffs started they were 4-3 and lost in the AFL semifinals. He’s determined to make this year a different story. “This was a reality check, I’ll tell you right now,” Skene said. “They did not come with their full squad and we’re going to see a different team if we get a chance to beat them again, so we always have to be improving game after game.”
Following a hugely disappointing 2007 season things turned even more sombre following the tragic death of DB David Antonius just before Christmas. Some serious changes were in store for the Wolfpack. A number of veteran players left the team including DB Brock Balog, DB Damony Simmonds, DE’s Aaron Giovanetto and Gene Loria and WR Jeff Maltais. What may have been a rebuilding year for other teams was simply a reloading year for the Wolfpack. Some new faces appeared on the scene that would have a huge impact on the season to come such as RB Jeff Williams, LB Pablo Martinez, SB Evan Kaluta, WR/QB Daniel Craig, LB Jon Scratch & DB's Dwayne Ross & Justyn Wilson.
2008 opened up on the road against the expansion Parkland Panthers who proved to be no pushovers!! The Wolfpack barely hung on for a 25-23 victory. We returned the following week to Edmonton and had a much better game against the Seahawks, blowing them out 61-3!! Next up was our home opener against the Grande Prairie Drillers who travelled with a full squad & ready to play!! The game featured the leagues best 2 QB’s Darryl Leason and Nathan Aldred duelling all afternoon. When the dust settled the Drillers had another victory over the Wolfpack 44-42. The next week saw another tough game as the Red Deer Buccaneers gave the Pack all we could handle until late in the game with Wolfpack coming out on top 20-9 and running our record to 3-1 at the halfway point of the season.
The Pack returned to Red Deer the following week for a matchup against the always strong Edmonton Stallions. Despite 5 Wolfpack turnovers the Stallions just couldn’t keep up on offence and the Wolfpack claimed a 38-21 victory. The Pack returned home the following week to tangle with the much improved Lloydminster Vandals who had picked up a number of quality players from the now defunct Wainwright Longhorns. It proved to be a tough affair with Pack holding on for a 28-12 victory. The regular season finale had been anticipated all year with the Wolfpack looking for a little payback against the Calgary Gators who had ended our season in 2007!! The game did not disappoint resulting in a tough, hard hitting tilt that saw the Wolfpack triumph 23-15 and sending the Gators on the road for the playoffs. The Pack finished 6-1 and thanks to the Drillers stumbling down the stretch, secured 1st place.
Our Semi-final opponent turned out to be the tough Edmonton Stallions. The game turned into a classic defensive battle and when the dust had cleared the Wolfpack advanced with a 15-10 win!
The AFL Championship game pitted the Wolfpack against the surprising Lloydminster Vandals in Calgary. The game was a slugfest in the first half with both teams seemingly scoring at will. The second half saw the Wolfpack defence step up and frustrate the Vandals while the Pack offence kept on rolling amassing 600+ yards and winning 43-21. The win was our 13th AFL Championship and gave us the chance to play for the National Championship at home in McMahon Stadium!!
After a long season…the Calgary Wolfpack clawed our way back to the top of the senior football mountain on Saturday night! The 10-0 NFC Champion Tri-City Outlaws came to town full of confidence and swagger. However confidence doesn’t win football games….execution does. The Calgary Wolfpack controlled the football the entire night, doubling up the Outlaws in time of possession. When the whistle blew to end the game, the Wolfpack had a convincing 35-7 victory and hoisted the Sid Forster Memorial Trophy for the 4th time as CMFL National Champions!!
The Wolfpack Offence racked up 523 total yards including 222 on the ground!! Leading the Wolfpack ground attack was RB Jeff Williams with 17 carries for 147 yards and 2 TD’s. Williams also hauled in 2 passes for another 57 yards and was named the games MVP Offence! RB Rod Bailey chipped in with 37 yards on 8 carries, RB Joel Gueverra had 18 yards on 3 carries, FB Matt Squires had 3 carries for 8 yards….all first down conversions!! While the ground attack caught the Outlaws off guard, the passing game as efficient as usual. QB Darryl Leason was 23 of 37 for 296 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His favourite target on the night was SB Evan Kaluta who hauled in 8 receptions for 100 yards and 1 TD. SB Terry Eldridge caught 3 passes for 45 yards while SB Mike Leason caught 4 passes for 39 yards.
The Wolfpack Defence had another huge group effort against a powerful Outlaws defence, holding them 7 points and forcing 4 turnovers!! LB Lazar Velev led the charge with 4.5 tackles (3 solo, 3 assists, 1 for loss) and 1 sack. DT Sheldon Southgate had 4.0 tackles (2 solo, 4 assists, 2 for loss) and DE Brian Shewchuk also had 4.0 tackles (1 solo, 6 assists, 1.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks. DB Ken Watt had a big game as well with 3.5 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and 1 INT. DB’s Rob Sakires and Robb Sherman each had an INT as well!! K/P Tom Dixon showed his veteran savy going 3 for 3 on extra points, hitting 2 of 3 FG attempts and having a solid 41.3 yard average on 4 punts, pinning the Outlaws deep in their own end. Tom was named the games MVP Special Teams for his efforts!
The Calgary Wolfpack would like to thank all of our families and friends for their support during another long season. We would also like to acknowledge the great support from our sponsors, without which we couldn’t do what we do!! The Calgary Wolfpack will now take the next couple of months to rest, heal, and celebrate. Rest assured though that come December…we will be back practicing indoors and preparing for 2009. We have climbed back to the top of the mountain and we like the view from up here….we intend to stay!!
2007 began as others had before….the bitter taste of another lost National Championship in front of family and friends….and the renewed hope that a new season brings. Some players left the Wolfpack for greener pastures such as DB Rob Sakires, OL Brendon Hilts, DT Brad Bednarek and veteran LB and team captain Stephen Bender….who all went to the Gators. Others such as DB Kris Arnold, DE Jim Lapointe retired. A new crop of rookies showed up however to help fill the gaps. LB Brian Shewchuk, DB Damony Simmonds as well as DB’s Matt Donnelly, Allen Fieldberg and Jack Braybrook bolstered our defence while OL Tom Elder and RB Miguel Ceja joined our offence.
The Wolfpack opened the season in dominating fashion, defeating the Calgary Thunder, Lloydminster Vandals & Red Deer Buccaneers by a combined score of 171-7. During that stretch QB Darryl Leason threw 19 TD’s while the defence recorded 7 sacks and 7 interceptions!! The year was off to a great start!
The wheels fell off the bus over the next 2 weeks. First the Wolfpack lost a heartbreaker to the Drillers 26-20 in Grande Prairie. Despite putting up another 500+ yards in offence…the scrappy Drillers would not let the Wolfpack score in the “Red” zone!! The following week saw the Wolfpack tangle with the new look….and undefeated Calgary Gators. The game was a classic with both teams trading blows!! A very tough Gators defence intercepted Darryl Leason 5 times….but despite this the Wolfpack scored a potential game tying TD with 24 seconds left in the game!! In a controversial decision….the Wolfpack elected to try a 2-point conversion to win the game in regulation time…only to come up short and lose 31-30!! After such a promising start the Wolfpack dropped to 3-2!
A 71-0 nothing blowout over the Edmonton Seahawks and two solid wins over the Longhorns and Stallions ran the Wolfpack record to 6-2 and set up a Semi-final matchup against the Calgary Gators!! The rematch was another classic….dominated by both defences!! Trailing late in the game….but driving for a game winning fieldgoal…the Wolfpack’s season came to an abrupt halt with a heartbreaking INT inside the Gators 30 yard line….resulting in 12-11 Gators victory. For the first time since 2001…the Wolfpack would not play for an AFL Championship!! A long off season lay ahead trying to figure out what went wrong!!
|Mark Ingram/Matthew Lamontagne||2014|
Herald News Services
Published: Monday, September 29, 2008
- Football - It wasn't the game the Wolfpack were expecting against the Tri-City Outlaws, but a 35-7 victory is something they would gladly take.
Quarterback Darryl Leason was as efficient as ever throwing for one TD and rushing for another. Leason completed 23/37 for 296 yards and threw one interception as well.
The Outlaws were the favourites heading into the game, with former CFL talent like Northern Football Conference MVP Ian Ford and Jon Netkovic who led his league in rushing.
But the 'Pack's defence proved too much for them when they had to adapt their game to three down football as opposed to their league in Ontario where they play four downs.