Tigers register a win, finally
Winless streak ends at four with assertive performance
The Dalhousie Tigers football team saved their best game of the season for a packed homecoming crowd, running over UNB Fredericton in a 27 – 7 blowout.
Winless heading into their Oct. 22 game, the Tigers had a string of strong performances but were unable to take anything away from their opponents in their first four games of the season.
It was at Dal’s homecoming game, however, where the Tigers’ best players turned up and played to their potential with Brendan Festeryga leading the ariel assault and Greg Pelly pounding the ball on the ground, displaying his lightning quick speed. Festeryga went for nearly 200 offensive yards, while Pelly would add 136 yards and three touchdowns.
The Tigers defence stood tall, too, holding their opponents to a single point off a missed field goal until the fourth quarter. Bryce Wade had a trademark interception for Dal, while Phil Benda and Omar El Gamal had key tackles.
Although a blowout in the end, the Tigers started off slow. Festeryga was almost picked off a few minutes into the first quarter, and the Red Bombers took advantage, getting into the red zone to attempt a field goal.
A flag on the play, however, meant the successful kick would not stand and the Red Bombers would have to kick again. On his second attempt, the kicker missed well wide. The Red Bombers received a single to lead 1 – 0 for the ball going through the end zone.
Then Greg Pelly decided to take over the game, returning the kickoff deep before connecting with Festeryga on a series of throws and runs deep into Red Bombers territory.
Festeryga was left scrambling on the next play, evading two Red Bombers tackles before he found Pelly with a shovel pass in the end zone for the Tigers’ opening touchdown.
Leading 6 – 1 heading into the second quarter, Festeryga found receiver Aaron Wolf on three consecutive throws before the pivot called his own number, driving the ball in on a one-yard play. Choosing to go for an extra two points, the Tigers made the extra count, taking a 14 – 1 lead.
The Tigers kickoff went out of bounds on the next play and set up UNB on their own 40-yard line, but Stefan Strecko picked off the next play and the Tigers stormed back down the field. Dal capitalized on the play with a Pelly touchdown. They would miss another PAT attempt, but still held a sizeable 20 – 1 lead.
Before Dal’s fans could blink, the Tigers had possession again after Festeryga aired a pass to Pelly, who took it all the way for a 58-yard score. The Tigers, after adding their first point after of the game, were leading 27 – 1 at halftime and left the field to a standing ovation.
Taking advantage of the big lead, the coaching staff began rotating in their second-string players, in the final half, giving them a chance to shine in front of the biggest home crowd of the season.
The changes led to a disjointed offence but the defence stood their ground and held the visitors scoreless until late in the final frame. A Red Bombers touchdown would cut the lead to 27 – 7.
There would, however, be no Tigers collapse on this day as the home team deserved to win, moving to a 1 – 4 record on the season.
Pelly said it was a relief to finally win.
“Things haven’t been going my way this season, but after that first touchdown from Festeryga, I felt myself able to relax and get going.
“We have one more regular season game against Saint John, then the playoffs, and right now each of us believe we can go as far as we want to.”
Head Coach Mike Tanner thought Pelly was putting too much pressure on himself.
“After the season he had last year, Pelly was holding himself to pretty high expectations. We talked about that and told him just to play within the offence.”
“He played like he can and had a great game. He persevered and now he needs to keep it going, moving forward.”
The Tigers play their final regular season game on Nov. 5 when they visit the UNB Saint John Seawolves. Afterwards, all four AFL teams will enter the playoffs. The Tigers will not return to Wickwire during the postseason.