By Henry Whitfield, Staff Contributor
In front of another sold out crowd at Wickwire Field, the Dalhousie Tigers Football team capped off a hugely successful weekend for Dal Athletics with a hard fought win over the Moncton Junior Mustangs.
A tough, stingy defensive core and breakout runs by stand-out Greg Pelly helped the Tigers grind out a 17–8 win and helped improve their record to 3–2 on the season.
Running back Pelly was the star of the game, picking up 131 yards on twelve carries and six catches for 68 yards while adding two touchdowns.
“It feels good to win. We couldn’t get the first one and we were beaten real bad last week but to win this week, especially at homecoming, is a great feeling,” said Pelly after the game. “It was great to take over back there and be the feature guy, getting that many touches means I can put the work in and put up some points for the team.”
The first quarter was a tight defensive battle, keeping the offence from scoring for both teams and was highlighted by an interception by Tigers defensive back Nick Natale. The Junior Mustangs managed a single point on a missed field goal and took a 1–0 lead into the second quarter.
Trying to hit his receiver deep, quarterback Brendan Festeryga was picked off on his first throw of the second quarter but the defence came back and forced a fumble, a play that sparked the offence.
Festeryga bounced back by hitting Andrew Adamczyk deep for a big gain and then scrambled under pressure to get the team in the red zone. Pelly took over and drove the ball in, giving his team a 7–1 lead and igniting the home fans.
With two minutes left in the first half, Festergya was intercepted again, giving Moncton a great field position. The Junior Mustangs wasted no time, throwing a touchdown pass to receiver Adam Proud. The visitors took a one point lead into the second half.
Once again the defence for both teams took control of the game and neither team was able to add any points in the third quarter. The Tigers were stopped twice as they tried to convert third down chances, dropping a pass in the end zone and catching one out of bounds.
Bryce Wade, in his return from injury, made a number of big plays and woke his team up with a massive hit heard around the field to start the fourth quarter. Rallying around the defence, Festergya kicked his game up another gear and drove his team down the field. The first year threw two passes to Steve Fox for first downs and setup kicker Karim Pabani, who converted a 28-yard field goal and had 5 points on the night.
Feeling momentum on their side, the Tigers continued their dominating defensive play, quickly getting their offence back on the field. Josh Senman added a 25-yard run and Fox added another catch for a first down. Fox had five catches for 85 yards on the night.
Pelly was given the ball and repaid the faith put in him by driving the ball in on a 10-yard run, giving his team a 17-8 lead with just minutes remaining and the team’s first home win in over 34 years.
The story of the game was the Tigers defence and their much improved play, rebounding from a blowout loss the previous week.
Head Coach Mike Tanner was elated with the defensive effort. “The defence played terrific, they are starting to play with more intensity, they’re starting to hit better, not being hesitant in the tackle and they’re just starting to grow as a football team.
“I was a little concerned because we couldn’t generate any points and we had several opportunities in the second quarter. We dropped a touchdown pass, caught a pass out of bounds, we were just unlucky, continued Tanner. “It was nice to get the win in the fourth quarter, we had a couple turnovers we were able to turn into points and put up a nine point lead.”
With a big win in the books, The Tigers have put themselves in a place where they control their own fate.
A win this Saturday (Oct. 30) in Moncton would guarantee the team second place and a home playoff game to kick off the post season, giving the Tigers fans a chance to support their team in the first playoff game in over three decades.