By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Kingston Grenadiers are proving to be a pretty resilient bunch.
They ignored a trick play that led to a touchdown on their opponent’s first possession Saturday, scoring the next time they had the ball. They shook off the effects of a turnover that led the Metro Toronto Wildcats to score a touchdown in the second quarter by getting a touchdown and field goal in the final three minutes of the first half.
Carrying that momentum through the remainder of the ball game, the Grenadiers posted a 51-27 Ontario Varsity Football League victory over Metro at Loyalist Collegiate.
Irrepressible as the Grens were within Saturday’s game, the total performance was a nice response to a difficult defeat suffered a week ago against the division-leading Ottawa Myers Riders.
With it, Kingston pulled into a third-place tie with Metro at 5-2, and now hold the advantage should the teams end tied at the end of the regular year. With one game to play, next Saturday at home against the Toronto Thunder, Kingston remains in the hunt to finish second, and host a conference semifinal.
Ahead of the Grenadiers stand Ottawa, 6-0 after defeating Cumberland 27-7 Saturday, and the West Durham Dolphins, 5-1, after edging the Thunder 14-13.
Two elements were instrumental to Kingston’s decisive victory: a running game that exceeded even the most optimistic expectations, and a defence that effectively stymied Metro in the middle part of the game, as the Grenadiers scored 30 straight points to turn a tie ball game into a 44-14 advantage.
His team’s consistency was the thing that most pleased Grenadiers coach Mark Magee, “and the level of effort everybody put forward for four quarters.”
Kingston’s ground game has been superb at times this year and suspect at others. Saturday it was terrific, as the Grenadiers scored five rushing touchdowns. Harry Robinson sparkled, with a 98-yard touchdown run and a 42-yard run on a draw play up the middle that set up another score.
Riley Avery scored three touchdowns, each on a one-yard run.
“The offensive line had a bit of an off game last week (in a 42-14 loss to Ottawa) but they were firing on all cylinders today,” Magee said. “They were doing it.
“We were worried about not being able to run because they have some real good athletes but our guys blocked well and the kids ran the ball hard. They stuck it in there.”
Robinson is actually the fourth tailback the team has used in its seven games. Konner Burtenshaw started there, but when the need to use him on defence became apparent, Calvin deFayette emerged. He had a 200-yard rushing game before breaking a bone in his ankle in Game 3.
Avery had a 200-yard game in his debut in deFayette’s place, but he was prone to fumbling the football. Robinson, one of the team’s premier defensive backs, saw double duty against Ottawa and scored both his team’s touchdowns.
He had three TDs altogether Saturday, the first on an eight-yard screen pass, the other two along the ground.
“Harry’s got another gear,” Magee said. “When he gets a crack it’s really hard for teams to get him stopped. Riley’s a plugger, he just keeps going. He gives us great pass protection; he’s really good on his assignments in the passing game.
“It’s a good contrast—two really consistent kids, one’s a little faster but the other one blocks better in the passing game.”
Robinson became the third Kingston tailback to rush for more than 200 yards in a game this year, with a season-best 238 yards on the ground. Quarterback Dylan Fisher completed 13 of 19 passes for 174 yards, and no interceptions. Jeremy Pendergast had six catches for 59 yards, while Carter Matheson caught four balls for 92 yards.
All that against a Metro team that had allowed just 20 points in its last five games.
“We felt that there were some things that we could do, in the running game and the passing game, and we were able to do them,” Magee said. “It’s a good job by the coaches to prepare the kids, to get them ready, and a good job by the kids to execute the things that we wanted to do.
“It doesn’t always work that way.”
The defence, meanwhile, shone against a team that had won its last five games. The Grenadiers intercepted three passes, knocked down three more attempts, sacked the quarterback twice and recovered a fumble.
“We were really worried about Trivel Pinto,” Magee said of the Wildcats receiver who went into the game leading the league with 33 receptions and eight touchdowns. “He had a few small plays in the game but we were really good covering him.”
But for two explosion plays in the first half—a 50-yard pass off a reverse that set up Metro’s first touchdown, and a high snap at midfield that was bobbled and kicked to the Grenadiers’ 20-yard line before the Wildcats recovered that gave the visitors a short field to score their second—the Kingston defence was stout throughout the game.
Two interceptions were important plays in the game. Damon Fair intercepted a tipped ball and returned it for a touchdown that gave Kingston its first lead, 14-7, in the final minute of the first quarter. After Metro capitalized on the Grenadiers’ fumble to tie the game, Gabe Bach returned an interception about 20 yards to the Metro 10-yard line, from where Robinson scored two plays later for a lead that Kingston retained to the end of the game.
“(Defensive co-ordinator Rick Miles) did a really good job of preparing the guys,” Magee said. “All plans are great, but the kids have to execute ’em and they executed very well. Hats off to all the guys for playing well.”
In the junior varsity game, the Grenadiers improved to 3-3 with a 28-0 win over winless Metro Toronto.