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Dal drops football finale

Tigers head to playoffs despite 1 – 5 season

Sports LogoThe Dalhousie Football Club played one of their best games of the season, but were unable to dig themselves out of an early 14 – 0 deficit, losing 43 – 29 on the road to the defending AFL champion Saint John Seawolves Nov. 5 in their season finale.

Dal’s dismal 1 – 5 record does not affect the team’s playoff hopes as all four league members qualify. The Tigers play No. 1 seeded Holland College Hurricanes in the semifinals Nov. 12.

The other semifinal matchup sees the UNB Saint John Seawolves opposite the second place UNB Fredericton Red Bombers.

Dal head coach Mike Tanner was obviously frustrated with another loss.

“We’re snake-bitten. Plain and simple, we’re just snake-bitten.

“No matter what happens, each game something different goes wrong and we’re on the back foot trying to win the game,” said Tanner.

The Tigers started sour after their five-hour bus trip, giving up 14 early points to the Seawolves, courtesy of a pair of Justin Cavan touchdowns. The first was run off a kickoff return.

With a 14 – 0 lead less than two minutes into the game, the Seawolves looked poised to thump the Tigers all night, using short kicks off each kickoff and relentlessly pressuring Dal’s offensive and defensive lines.

The Tigers, however, regained composure and their defence forced a Seawolves fumble midway through the first, which Dal recovered. With strong field possession, quarterback Brendan Festeryga connected with Steven Fox before a run by Greg Pelly had the Tigers within the 20-yard line.

Festeryga was pressured off the snap, but after scrambling, the second-year pivot found receiver Darko Stasevic in the endzone to reduce the deficit to seven points.

The Tigers then conceded a single point late in the first quarter, leaving the Seawolves with a 15 – 7 lead heading into the second.

Festeryga called his own number with 10:40 left in the half, jumping over the scrum at the line for the touchdown. The Tigers would then tie the game at 15 on a successful two-point conversion pass.

With UNB driving down the field, Dal’s Bryce Wade made a timely interception on his own 10-yard line, but the Tigers were unable to get the ball deep into opposition territory. The Seawolves came right back, finding a wide open Joel Seale in the endzone to give his team a 22 – 15 lead.

The Seawolves tried another onside kick and successfully recovered. Wasting no time, they connected on a deep throw to receiver Sean Wedge, who stormed the endzone for a touchdown. The score widened the lead to 29 – 15 heading into halftime.

Starting off strong in the second, Festeryga found his brother Pat with a deep throw, scrambling into the endzone for his second rushing score of the game. The scoreline stayed at 29 – 22 to end the third quarter.

Regaining momentum in the fourth, the Seawolves added another score to take a 35 – 22 lead, although their extra point conversion was blocked.

Tanner shortly after switched Dal quarterback Festeryga out of the match in favour of third-string Mike Tassone, using backup Scott Seamone’s back injury as an opportunity to give Tassone some playing time.

Showing his mobility, Tassone scrambled for a touchdown early in his stint, drawing the Tigers within six points with just two minutes left in the game.

Taking over with a 35 – 29 lead, the Seawolves pushed the chains and moved methodically down the field, taking valuable time off the clock. The Tigers defence continued to bend but were holding strong on the goalline.

In the last play of the game, the Seawolves broke through, adding their final score of the game to give them a convincing 43 – 29 advantage.

Even though the Tigers played one of their best games of the season, it wasn’t enough to stop them from dropping to a 1 – 5 record heading into the playoffs.

“Tonight it was a slow start and they had a 14-point lead within minutes of the game starting,” said Tanner. “But each week it’s something different and I’ve never known a team to have the kind of luck we’ve had this season.”

Despite the loss, Tanner saw a number of positives from his team.

“Our defence held them all day long and trailed by just six points with two minutes left in the game. To hold those boys that close shows how far we’ve come this season, but it wasn’t enough to win.”

Dalhousie visits the Holland College Hurricanes Nov. 12 at Holland College in their AFL semifinal match. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. 

Henry Whitfield
Henry Whitfield
You can follow Henry on Twitter at @HenryWhitfield, where he tweets about sports far too much.
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