By CLAUDE SCILLEY
They regretted it the day it happened.
The Kingston Grenadiers have regretted it a little bit more every week since.
That’s because the last-minute 28-27 defeat the Grenadiers suffered at the hands of the West Durham Dolphins on the opening weekend of the Ontario Varsity Football League season ultimately cost them second place, and home field for this weekend’s conference semifinal.
Instead, the Dolphins will host it at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering Saturday at noon.
It was a painful defeat for the Grenadiers, who led 13-0 at halftime and 27-14 early in the fourth quarter. Leading by six points, the Grens had the visiting Dolphins pinned at their own 10-yard line with three minutes to play, but couldn’t prevent West Durham from driving the field for the winning score, which came with 32 seconds on the clock.
Two months later, the Dolphins and Grenadiers finished the regular schedule tied at 6-2 and, of course, West Durham was favoured in the tie-breaker by virtue of that season-opening victory.
Since then, Kingston has won seven of its last eight games, including a 29-7 win over the Oshawa Hawkeyes in a first-round playoff match last Saturday.
West Durham went on to lose to the Ottawa Myers Riders—as did Kingston—but the Dolphins were also defeated in Week 2, 23-0 by Metro Toronto.
The Dolphins had last weekend off. They lost their final regular-season contest July 18, 38-13 to Myers.
Darnel Jarrett is West Durham’s main offensive threat. The tailback rushed for 741 yards this year, fourth best in the league, though he gained just 53 yards in that fateful game against Kingston, 44 of them on one carry.
Quarterback Mitchell Van Pelt threw for 796 yards, barely 100 per game, and just six touchdowns. Against the Grenadiers he passed for 167 yards.
J’van Mankertz led the Dolphins receivers with 35 catches (tied for seventh in the league) and 515 yards (10th in the league).
Two Dolphins, Trey Abrahams and Matthew Romain, ended the year with four interceptions apiece.
West Durham ranked 12th of 19 teams in terms of points scored, but the Dolphins’ offence was even less productive than that, since of the 208 points the Dolphins scored, 28 came from three kickoff returns and an interception. Two of those kickoff-return TDs came in the season opener at Kingston.
West Durham’s defence is another story, however. Only three teams surrendered fewer points than the 153 scored against the Dolphins during the regular year.
Saturday’s winner will face the winner of the other semifinal, between undefeated Ottawa and the fourth-place Cumberland Panthers.