The Estevan Century 21 peewee Chargers fell just short of completing a hard-fought comeback against the Weyburn Ravens in the Moose Jaw Minor Football League (MJMFL) championship final at Elks Field on Friday.
The Ravens won the title with a 14-8 victory over the Chargers in front of a big crowd of Estevan and Weyburn faithful who braved the cold and rain-swept conditions to cheer their young heroes on. The championship game was the first time a club from Estevan had advanced that far in the MJMFL playoffs, but the local kids didn’t show any nerves coming out calm and ready to play at the opening whistle.
“We approached it like any other day,” said Chargers head coach Jason Bresciani. “We can beat these guys. We got the kids believing and we just basically kept fine tuning each play each day to get here.”
The Ravens pushed hard on the first possession driving the ball down to the Chargers 16-yard line only to have the Estevan defence push back on their own stopping the advance on three straight plays. Once regaining the ball, the Chargers offence was unable to move it downfield surrendering it to the Ravens on their own 22-yard line.
The tandem of Austin Knupp and Ben Manning took over from there running the ball deep into the red zone before Manning punched it in for the touchdown with 1:49 left in the first quarter. Ravens quarterback Sidney Sidloski kicked the convert to make the score 8-0 heading into the second period.
Weyburn began the quarter with a first down at the Chargers 43-yard line, but could not advance any further. Sidloski then attempted a punt to try and pin Estevan deep, but a quick advance by Chargers defensive lineman Hailey Neff prevented the QB from getting the kick off.
“I didn’t even know I (blocked) it until it hit my helmet,” said Neff. “I wanted to go for the touchdown, but I couldn’t because it (went) out of bounds.”
Neff followed the blocked punt by recovering a Ravens fumble the next time the Chargers defence was on the field, but Weyburn’s offence kept pressing. On their next possession, a couple of strong runs by Knupp and Manning brought the ball from deep inside their territory to the Chargers three-yard line with Knupp finishing off the drive on a plunge up the middle with 1:34 left in the half to bring the score to 14-0.
Both the Chargers and Ravens battled in the trenches to start the third quarter with neither seeming able to penetrate each other’s defences until the final play of the period when Chargers quarterback Alec Waldegger ran a bootleg to the sidelines from the Weyburn 50-yard line and sprinted down the field for the touchdown. Klayten Piippo booted the convert to make it 14-8 with 12 minutes to go.
The two teams fought hard for any advantage in the fourth quarter with the Ravens advancing the ball to 10 yards out from the Chargers end zone with about two minutes remaining only to have Kolby Forseth record two big defensive tackles to help Estevan regain possession. The Chargers then marched the ball down the field over the final 1:46 with Waldegger making it to the Ravens 30-yard line on a last run towards the end zone during the final play of the game.
“It was awesome,” said Bresciani. “If we would have had a few more seconds on the clock or one more play I think we would have pulled it off.”