Fumbles after long kick returns, getting stuffed three times on one first-and-goal opportunity, and an interception in the red zone late in the fourth quarter took away from an otherwise well played game by the Saints.
Head coach Sean Henderson acknowledged there are some areas the team needs to work on if it hopes to win its first game since the program’s inception last year.
“We moved the ball terrifically well on offence, but we had some big mistakes on fumbles,” Henderson said. “If we do the little things correctly, we win the game I think.”
One of those “little things” involved having a touchdown taken back at the end of the first half for not waiting for a whistle. Had the major counted, it would have tied the game at 12 apiece, with the possibility of taking the lead on a successful convert.
Colts out of the gate strong
The Colts marched down the field on their first possession from their own 10-yard line to score a touchdown, doing so in just five plays.
Eastern Commerce blocked the ensuing convert attempt, and would translate that success by pressuring Western Tech into a a quick two-and-out on the Colts’ next possession.
The Toronto high school continued to play solid defensively throughout much of the first half, but it was the special teams that sparked a turnaround in the first quarter.
Western Tech failed to handle a punt, allowing Eastern Commerce to recover the loose ball on the Colts’ side of the field.
After a long gain from a reverse by kick returner/wide receiver Javon Bryce, Saints’ halfback Tyre Fairfax punched it in from five yards out to tie the game up at six. Eastern then had its convert blocked.
Bryce, a grade 10 student playing his first year of high school football, made several great runs and catches throughout the game, something that drew praise from his coach.
“Just a tremendous athlete who was unbelievable today,” Henderson said. “He made some great returns. He was terrific.
“But the little things, like all our young players, he needs to work on the little things.”
A fumble in the first half after a long kick return was one example Henderson pointed out, just one of several turnovers that the team committed in the game.
Henderson pointed to special teams as another area in need of work, something he acknowledged was the biggest problem last year.
In this game, despite some good kick returns — and a massive hit on a short punt delivered by middle linebacker Mathieu Phillips that drew the loudest cheers from the crowd in attendance — Eastern Commerce allowed a kick return for a touchdown that seemed to give the momentum back to Western Tech.
No points were scored in the second quarter, but the Colts added to their six-point lead with a touchdown early in the second half to go up 18-6.
Though Fairfax ran in another from in short to cut it to five points, Western Tech clamped down on defence and added two late touchdowns to seal the win.
Eastern Commerce ‘s strength is in its legs
Without a true starting running back, Eastern Commerce instead relies on a few different legs to move the ball on the ground.
Fairfax, who scored two touchdowns in the game, and Farid Ahmad provided much of the offence, while quarterback and team captain Jeremy Ambraska also contributed with some hustle of his own.
The 17-year-old pivot is a natural tailback and halfback, according to Henderson, something that adds a level of intensity to Ambraska’s game.
“I love that he’s not afraid to put his shoulder down,” the coach said. “Most quarterbacks might take a knee or something or slide. He just levels guys when he gets the chance.”
Ambraska’s best run came in the fourth quarter.
Down 24-14, the quarterback ran the ball down the sidelines for a gain of 25 yards, picking up a few extra feet trying to plow through a few defenders.
An interception a few plays later nullified the comeback bid and put a damper on otherwise strong performance by Eastern Commerce’s biggest leader.