By CLAUDE SCILLEY
No one is likely to dispute it: for the Kingston Grenadiers to defeat the best team in the Ontario Varsity Football League, they’d have to play a near perfect football game.
In the first half of their game Saturday, the Grenadiers did just that, and they trailed the Ottawa Myers Riders by just a point.
Then imperfection set in.
The Grenadiers lost two defensive linemen to injury in the second half, and they committed turnovers on consecutive possessions. Such is the stuff that the Riders have used to fashion a three-year, 26-game winning streak, and they used it Saturday night to take consecutive win No. 27, a 42-14 victory over Kingston at Beckwith Field, near Carleton Place.
With the win, Ottawa improves to 5-0 this year. The loss, ending a four-game Kingston winning streak, leaves the Grenadiers in fourth place at 4-2, a game behind the Metro Toronto Wildcats, who improved to 5-1 with a 23-0 victory Saturday over the Toronto Thunder, and half a game behind the West Durham Dolphins, who are 4-1 after they beat Markham 33-7.
The Grenadiers, no doubt regretting more than ever a one-point, last-minute loss to West Durham on the opening game of the season, will host Metro Toronto in their next game, Saturday afternoon at Loyalist Collegiate.
Kingston led Saturday’s game, 14-12, until the final play of the first half, when Myers kicked a field goal to take a one-point lead into the intermission.
The Grenadiers answered an Ottawa touchdown to start the second half by driving the ball inside the Riders’ 20-yard line, but quarterback Dylan Fisher threw an interception near the five. The next time Kingston had the ball, Riley Avery fumbled near his own 30-yard line.
Ottawa turned each turnover into a touchdown.
“We were playing well, on both sides of the ball,” Grenadiers coach Mark Magee said. “Unfortunately, with the turnovers, they scored, scored and scored—and all of a sudden it’s 35-14 … and the game’s being played on a whole other level.
“They’re very good … and if you give them opportunities their offence seems to be so strong.”
Magee said the game was won on the line of scrimmage, where the Riders enjoyed a decided size advantage. It was a handicap that was compounded when Konner Burtenshaw and Jonah Johnson went out of the game with injuries.
“We’re not particularly deep. We just don’t have a lot of depth,” Magee said. “It definitely affected our ability to defend the run and pressure the quarterback.
“We were competitive (but) their quarterback was spot on … he has a couple of really fast guys (at receiver) and they were taking advantage of that athleticism.”
Offensively, that size mismatch on the line meant the Grenadiers weren’t able to run the football. After getting 200-yard games from two different running backs in their previous two games, the Grenadiers managed just 84 yards along the ground, 30 of it coming on a nifty off-tackle touchdown run by Harry Robinson.
“They have more weight, more size on their defensive front,” Magee said. “Our guys were battling hard but if you’re outweighed by 30, 40 pounds a guy, it’s tough to move them.”
An interception that Wade Zanchetta returned 29 yards set up one Kingston touchdown. Robinson, a defensive back who played both ways in the first half, scored the other major, on a 10-yard pass from Fisher.
Fisher completed 18 of 37 passes to seven different receivers for 252 yards. Carter Matheson caught five balls for 78 yards, while Jeremy Pendergast had four catches and Jake Magee and Nik Daniele had three apiece.
Avery carried the ball 12 times for 36 yards.
“We played well in the first half,” Magee said. “We played as well as we could expect. The fact that we lost the football game was no slight on our team. They all played hard. They played from whistle one right to the last whistle.
“We didn’t help them out a couple of times on offence, with the turnovers. We needed to score more to keep our defence off the field. We tried but we couldn’t get it done.”