BY ZACHARY CORMIER
The Prairie Fire Football Club got off to a tough start to their fifth Calgary and Area Midget Football Association (CAMFA)season at ME Global Athletic Park, last Friday night.
Despite a valiant last minute effort led by running back Jordan Lenius, the Fire found themselves on the wrong end of a 27-12 meeting with the NW Calgary Mavericks.
“It was extremely competitive. We had some really great times and then we had some times where we fell flat on our face,” said Fire Head Coach Patrick Callan after the game.
Callan’s team of 55 players ages 14-17 from Central Alberta put on a good show throughout their first regular season contest but struggled to find consistency at times throughout the game.
“(The Mavericks) are a good football team, and so are we, but we need to be much more consistent to win that game. We had lots of chances.”
The Fire looked shaky on their opening drive, turning over the ball on a fumble after a long completed pass, but they just seemed to get stronger as the game went on, both defensively and offensively.
After the initial turnover, the Prairie Fire defense, one of their strongest assets last season, came out and put up a huge stop, forcing Mavericks QB Cole Belway to throw a pair of incomplete passes before punting it away and allowing the PrairieFire offense go to work from around the opposing 50-yard line.
And boy, did they deliver, working their way down field with a series of well selected plays, including one 20-yard pickup that saw Fire quarterback Devin Desormeau connect with a leaping Reese Guhl near the opposing sideline.
They capped off the play with a 30-yard field goal to draw first blood and take an early 1-0 lead.
That momentum couldn’t keep going in the second quarter, though, as the Mavericks struck back with a pair of touchdowns, both of which came on long-yardage runs, to take a 14-3 lead into the half.
As the game continued, the Fire’s offense looked just a half step out of sync.
Desormeau struggled to find traction in his passing game while the Mavericks’ defense stonewalled Lenius at every turn,not allowing him to even break into the secondary, let alone gain significant yards.
Despite that, they managed to pick up a field goal in the third, making it 14-6 Mavericks heading into the fourth quarter.
But defense more than made up for the lack of scoring, holding the Mavs scoreless until the final 10 minutes of play andgiving their teammates time to figure out their scoring woes.
Finally the Fire had a breakthrough early in the fourth quarter, when the offense finally fought their way into the Red Zoneearly in the fourth quarter.
Desormeau, knowing that there was only five minutes left to get back into the game, tossed a bomb down field to widereceiver Tyrese Hamilton, who leaped up over his covering man and made a spectacular catch while falling backwards for a huge pickup.
Although the Fire weren’t able to convert on that drive thanks to an end zone pick by Mavs’ defender Kade Smith, the catchgave them the momentum to get the ball back on a two and out and march all the way back down the field to put up six huge points. The score was 14-12 with five minutes to play.
That’s where the comeback would end, though, as the Fire couldn’t make the two point conversion necessary to tie the game up.
A touchdown by the Mavericks on the ensuing kick off was the final nail in the coffin. Final score: 27-12 Mavs.
“I’m happy that the kids competed all the way to the end of the game. As a coaching staff, I’ll say that I made some mistakes today but we’ll get better,” Callan said.
“Lots of growing pains, lots of change from last year,” Callan said, adding that he was happy with the way the game went overall.
“Our offensive line played extremely well, our running backs played extremely well. I’m happy that (offensive coordinator)Byron (Stearns) stuck to our offensive game plan the whole game, and it gave us a chance to win the game late in thegame.”
Next up for the Prairie Fire is a Friday night rumble as they head to Calgary to take on the Hilltoppers.
Kick off is at 7:15 p.m. at Shouldice Park.