By CLAUDE SCILLEY
A touchdown in the final minute of the game Saturday gave the West Durham Dolphins a 28-27 win over the Kingston Grenadiers on the opening day of the Ontario Varsity Football League season.
In a game played at Loyalist Collegiate, the Grenadiers led throughout, until the visitors scored with 32 seconds remaining. A couple of dropped passes on Kingston’s subsequent possession prevented the home team from getting close enough to the West Durham goal to try for a field goal.
“It was a tough loss but it is early,” Kingston coach Mark Magee said. “It was our first game and we just have to clean up our special teams play, be more consistent on offence and probably tackle better on defence.
“We played pretty good assignment-based football … we’ve just got to win a few more battles.”
Kingston squandered a 13-0 halftime lead, largely on the strength of two kickoffs that the Dolphins returned for touchdowns in the second half. The first came on the kick to start the second half, and the other came after the Grenadiers had scored their fourth touchdown, to take a 27-14 lead.
At that point, the Grenadiers were unable to move the football, but they punted the ball down to the West Durham 10-yard line with about three minutes left in the game. The Kingston defence, which had allowed just one touchdown to that point, couldn’t, however, prevent the game-winning drive.
“With special teams, it’s early in the season,” Magee said. “You don’t normally get a lot chances (to work on them). You do practise them, but you’re not doing a ton of live practice, so when you get going in a game and the other team has a couple of athletes, if you don’t cover correctly, the next thing you know it’s going down the other way. We’ve just got to work on that stuff.’
On one of the returns, it appeared the Grenadiers were in position to make the tackle but they couldn’t make the play.
“There were two or three kids right there,” Magee said. “They came flying down and the guy bobbled the ball and they thought they were going to kill him, but he picked it up and he kind of sidestepped them, and once he was through the first wave, it was kind of on. He was just out-running guys. They have a couple of athletes there who can just run.
“Not that we don’t have some good athletes, but they’ve got a couple of kids that nobody seems to be able to catch.”
Ater they were stopped on their first possession, Grenadiers quarterback Dylan Fisher and Carter Matheson connected for a 68-yard touchdown. After Konner Burtenshaw and Calvin deFayette scored on short runs from under the shadow of the goal posts, Jeremy Pendergast scored Kingston’s final touchdown on an 18-yard counter play.
Mike Bashall converted three of the majors.
For the most part, the Grenadiers had a good game offensively. Fisher completed 14 of 22 passes to six different receivers for 238 yards. The Grens rushed for 155 yards, with Burtenshaw getting 125 of them from 26 carries.
Matheson had four catches for 135 yards.
Magee characterized the game as one the Grenadiers let slip away.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “The kids battled hard. Even on their winning touchdown, the kid was right there.
“It’s early. It will take a couple of games to sort it out.”
The Grenadiers resume play Saturday in Cumberland where the Panthers, behind a 410-yard rushing attack, whipped Cornwall 49-0 Saturday in their season opener.