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Varsity Grenadiers put perfect record on the line
Posted: June 14th, 2013 @ 2:54am
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Once was enough for Bob Mullen.
"We were bitten by that dog last year," the defensive co-ordinator of the varsity Kingston Grenadiers said. "We laid an egg against Markham last year in the third game and it came back to haunt us."
Indeed, the Grenadiers paid dearly last summer for a defeat that seemed relatively inconsequential at the time. They wound up tied with Markham for the final playoff berth at the end of the regular Ontario Varsity Football League season. The tie-breaker was the outcome of that early game and by virtue of losing it, the Grenadiers watched from afar as Markham went to the playoffs.
Mullen would like his players to keep that in mind as they prepare for Saturday's Ontario Varsity Football League game with the Oshawa Hawkeyes.
Kingston is undefeated after three games but the Hawkeyes will come to town with a 2-1 record. An Oshawa win creates a tie, one that would favour the Hawkeyes if it remains at the end of the schedule.
"It's a crazy league this year," Mullen said. "Some of the teams that haven't traditionally been strong are having their day."
Under a new coaching staff, Oshawa is a bigger, stronger team than it was last year, Mullen said. The Hawkeyes were soundly beaten by the traditionally powerful Ottawa Myers Riders but they surprised some by defeating Cumberland 28-16 last weekend.
"Cumberland's a big strong team on defence and Oshawa ran the ball pretty well against them," Mullen said.
"They have four different guys who have taken snaps, so the demeanor of the offence seems to change from week to week a little bit, but I think they're going to challenge us on the ground."
More correctly, perhaps, the Hawkeyes are the ones facing the challenge, one of solving a Grenadiers defence that has not allowed a point this year.
"The kids are playing fast," Mullen said. "We've got a lot of team speed, and they're playing together.
"We don't have a lot of size inside so we playing a different front configuration and we're having some fun with that. It's pretty flexible and interesting. We can blitz and attack and stunt from all different angles. It's a different look for teams. They have to figure out how to block it. It's not something they see every week."
Last Saturday's 14-2 win at Pickering provided some examples of the kind of collective play that has been at the heart of the Grenadiers' defensive success.
"It was 4-0 going into the fourth quarter. You just knew the game was going to turn on a play," Mullen said, "and they have some great athletes.
"One of their receivers, in particular, is a gifted athlete. He caught the ball in traffic on us and actually got behind us a twice. Those plays would have been scores if the rest of us weren't busting our humps to get there, and we made tackles. He got yards but he didn't get into the end zone."
The Grenadiers denied a fourth-and-goal play from the two-yard line in the fourth quarter to preserve their narrow lead.
"Everybody needs to run to the ball," Mullen said. "If you wait to figure out that I need you there, it's too late. They've been doing a great job playing together."
The varsity game, scheduled for 4 p.m., will be the last of three in a tripleheader with the Hawkeyes at Loyalist Collegiate Saturday that will start at 11 a.m. with a battle of winless teams in a bantam game. The junior Grenadiers, also 0-3 after going to the division final last year, will be trying for their first win of the year at 1 o'clock against an Oshawa team that is also winless after three games.
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