By CLAUDE SCILLEY
They spent the first part of their football game Saturday afternoon putting themselves in position to win it.
In the second half, the Kingston Grenadiers did their darndest to give it away.
Amid a staggering spate of penalties, the Grenadiers still managed to prevail over the winless York-Simcoe Bucs, 21-14 in an Ontario Varsity Football League game at Loyalist Collegiate, thereby improving to 3-1 for the season.
Still, there was not a lot of joy around the home team’s bench or dressing room after the game.
“I think they went into the dressing room feeling like they’d lost,” Grenadiers coach Mark Magee said, after he expressed to his players exactly how he felt about the 230 yards of penalties his team had been assessed.
These were not cheapies. Among them were 10—that’s right, ten—for unnecessary roughness, another 25-yarder for rough play and two for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Two Grenadiers were thrown out of the game—linebackers Spencer Giffin, for a high, late hit on the opposing quarterback, and Konner Burtenshaw, whose ejection was automatic after he received his third UR penalty.
“It was flag after flag after flag,” Magee said. “It was unbelievable.”
Magee brooked no quarrel with the officials. “I went to them after the game and apologized for the conduct of my team,” Magee said. “I’ve never done that before.”
More than once, the Grenadiers paid a startling price for their misdeeds.
In one case, the Grenadiers sacked the York-Simcoe quarterback, forcing him to fumble the football. Harry Robinson scooped it and took it to the end zone for an apparent touchdown that would have put Kingston ahead 28-7 in the second half.
Instead, a teammate sparring with a York-Simcoe player back at the line of scrimmage was penalized for unnecessary roughness, negating the touchdown.
“And I’m going, ‘Are you kidding me? You had to punch that kid in the head?’” Magee said. “We just scored a touchdown on a beautiful football play … it was stuff like that.”
Giffin’s penalty came on a fourth-down play where the pass was incomplete but instead it sustained a drive that resulted in York-Simcoe’s second touchdown.
The game might have essentially been over had it not been for a sequence of plays in the dying seconds of the first half. Grenadiers quarterback Dylan Fisher threw an interception at the York-Simcoe seven-yard line and then Kingston received a major penalty on the final play of the half that put the Grenadiers at a 15-yard deficit to start the third quarter.
They survived that peccadillo but it proved to be a portent of what was to come. “The penalties started right then to put us in a bit of a hole,” Magee said.
The ultimate impact of the penalties was that it kept the York-Simcoe offence on the field, and, by extension, the Grenadiers’ offence off it. “It kept them alive,” Magee said. “It’s not like they drove the ball; (those) penalties created situations for them … and allowed them to score points.
“We were probably lucky to win the game, simply because on offence, we never had much of a chance.”
The shenanigans were also unfortunate in that they stole the spotlight from some pretty commendable performances. The Grenadiers defence sacked the quarterback eight times—two of them by Cam Hebert—blocked a kick and recovered two fumbles. Offensively, running back Calvin deFayette had a career game, carrying the ball 25 times for 209 yards and a touchdown while Fisher completed 12 of 18 passes, including six of his first seven, one of which was a 10-yard touchdown toss to Carter Matheson.
DeFayette played the entire game at running back, as the Grenadiers chose to use Burtenshaw exclusively at linebacker.
“Calvin ran hard, he ran tough,” Magee said. “He set the tone early for the football team, to get us up two scores with his running.”
Tanner DeJong threw for Kingston’s other touchdown, a nine-yard scoring play to Denver Stephens that proved to be the winning score in the second half.
“We started out great,” Magee said. “We scored on our first possession, we scored again. We were in command. At the end of the first half we had a good chance to go up 21-0, in total control, but the turnover set us back.”
As did the penalties.
“Very frustrating,” Magee said, “but I don’t want to put too negative a spin on it, because I said my piece with (the players), and I received multiple apologies from players after the game who sought me out.”
Nonetheless, both Burtenshaw and Giffin, who received mandatory one-game suspensions for being thrown out of the game, will be lost to the team for its game this Saturday in Markham.