The Tigers football club won their semifinal game against the UNB Fredericton Red Bombers 24-15 on Saturday, Oct. 31 at Huskies Stadium. The win sends the Tigers to PEI to play the Holland College Hurricanes on Saturday, Nov. 7 for the AFL Championship and the Moosehead Cup.
“They’re a great team,” said Tigers head coach Alan Wetmore of the Red Bombers. “It definitely was tighter than I would like it to be but it was as tight as I expected it to be.”
The game started slowly as neither offense could generate a flow in the first quarter.
The Red Bombers were able to get on the board with a ‘rogue’ late in the quarter giving them a 1-0 lead. Kicker Alex White was short on a 36-yard field goal try and the Tigers were unable to get the ball out of the end zone.
In the second quarter, Tigers DB MacKenzie Inglis intercepted a pass just over midfield and weaved his way across the field for a 30-yard return to the Red Bomber 41.
The Tigers capitalized on the turnover with a 21-yard Rob Wilson field goal to make it 3-1 Tigers.
On the next Red Bomber possession, QB Pat Mollins was picked off again, this time by Tigers DB Kenzie MacNeil.
Tigers QB Nick Hunsley hit WR Byron Kavanagh for 42 yards down the middle of the field to give the Tigers a first and goal.
The Tigers looked primed to turn the turnover into points again but Hunsley’s next pass went off the hands of his receiver and fell in the lap of Red Bomber DB Travis Branscombe who made the interception.
On the next Tigers possession, and last before halftime, their offense finally found their stride. Running back Zach Leger took a handoff on a perfectly executed draw play and busted a 25-yard run deep into Red Bomber territory. The Tigers ended up with a third and one from the Red Bomber five and decided to reach into their bag of tricks.
Offensive coordinator Evan Brown called a fake quarterback sneak WR reverse to Alex Bayne who took the ball around the right edge to the pylon for the TD. The score gave the Tigers a 10-1 lead at halftime.
The third quarter started much like the first with both Offenses struggling to move the ball. About halfway through the quarter the Red Bombers were able to pin the Tigers deep in their own zone after a punt. The Tigers fumbled a handoff and the Red Bombers dove on it at the three-yard line.
On the ensuing possession the Red Bombers handed the ball off to fullback Turner Sturgeon on three consecutive plays and the Tigers defense came up with a mammoth goal line stand.
The Tigers were not able to move the ball and were forced to punt. The punt only netted 15 yards and gave the Red Bombers the ball at the Tiger 30.
The Red Bombers handed it off to Sturgeon again and this time he was able to find a crease and rumble 30-yards to the end zone. The touchdown and extra point made the score 10-8 Tigers going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth, the Tigers put together a march mixing Leger’s runs and Hunsley’s passes to get down to the Red Bomber five. From there, Hunsley hit wide receiver Louis Gauvin on a corner route to the left for a touchdown connection and a 17-8 Tigers lead.
The Tigers looked like they were going to cruise to a win until Red Bomber punt returner Josh Blanchard fielded a punt at his own 20-yard line, found a seam and raced 90-yards for the punt return touchdown with 2:33 left on the clock. The huge return and extra point made it 17-15 Tigers.
The Red Bombers tried an onside kick but Gauvin was there to pounce on the ball for the Tigers.
After a Tigers two-and-out the Red Bombers got the ball back with just under two minutes on the clock. Mollins dropped back and fired a pass toward the sideline to his right, Tigers defensive back Graham Felix jumped the route and returned it 50-yards to the house for the game-clinching pick six. The pick made the score 24-15 Tigers.
Looking forward to the championship game next week, the team believes in their ability on the field.
“You just have to play your game,” said Wetmore. “(The Hurricanes) are a very good team. We believe we can go down and win it, we believe we can walk into their house and win it but they’re a great football team and it’s not going to be easy.”