The Pauline Johnson Collegiate Thunderbirds need to reverse the score of last week’s matchup against the Brantford Collegiate Institute Mustangs if they want in the Brant senior high school football playoffs.
With some healthy bodies and a better gauge on the Mustangs strength, the T-Birds have a chance to get the job done.
“We have to get healthier,” PJ coach Ken Chisholm said. “We have two running backs who are out right now and questionable for this coming Saturday.”
The final week of the regular season will see the fifth-place T-Birds host the third-place Mustangs on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Pauline Johnson Collegiate.
The second-place St. John’s College Green Eagles take on the fourth-place North Park Collegiate Trojans on Friday night at 8 p.m. at Bisons Alumni Field.
The Assumption College Lions have a bye and await the fourth-place team, who the Lions will face in the playoff semifinals next week.
This week’s matchups were decided after the Lions downed the Trojans 36-0 last Thursday and the Mustangs defeated the T-Birds 34-0 on a rainy Friday night.
For the T-Birds to climb ahead of the Trojans and make the playoffs, they need the Green Eagles to beat the Trojans on Friday and then need to flip last week’s score against the Mustangs.
Getting some key players back should help the team.
“After the (Oct. 11) trip to Massillon, Ohio, we came back with six guys injured,” T-Birds quarterback Mike Knevel said. “We should get our starting running back back this week and we need all the guys to come out to practice. Our attendance hasn’t been great.”
Knevel expects running back Bryce Frost to be back in the lineup against the Mustangs. Frost’s ball handling should help address the other major concern Knevel has.
“We had a lot of turnovers, which is unacceptable,” Knevel said. “The weather is no excuse. Turnovers are the most important thing to reverse for next weekend. We can’t win games with the number of turnovers we had.”
The ball and field were slippery on Friday as rain soaked the players throughout the duration of the game, turning the centre of the field into a mud puddle.
A few Mustangs players managed to keep their footing, though, with Tristan Almas running in two of BCI’s five touchdowns and Jamaal Jones-Peters scoring on a 75-yard kick return.
Chisholm is also counting on one of his top players to be a little healthier for the T-Birds second chance against the Mustangs.
Dakota Brush played on Friday and made several key tackles and long receptions, despite wearing an enormous cast to protect a broken finger.
“He is a pretty impressive young man,” Chisholm said. “Our season seems to have been predicated on how healthy he is. He brings that much to the table with his offence, defence, special teams and punting.”
Chisholm and Brush worked on a clamping technique so he could catch passes with the clunky cast on.
“He lets the ball hit the cast while simultaneously clamping down on the ball with his good hand,” Chisholm said.
One last key to the game plan for the T-Birds will be working on a way to slow down Mustangs defensive lineman Eric Yelle.
“We couldn’t contain him,” Chisholm said. “He was very active and chasing our guys down from behind. He seemed to have better cleats than everyone else.”
The temperature was cooler the previous night when the Lions faced the Trojans, but the teams had clear field conditions.
The Lions used a mix of their aerial and ground assaults for the big win.
Quarterback Austin Sault was near perfect, going nine for 12 for 156 yards and one touchdown pass to receiver Aaron Zuwala.
Meanwhile, Michael Sloan punched in a pair of scores on the ground, while reigning TCO Athlete of the Week Chris Lewis piled on 100 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Josh Tait and Blake McDonald had a pair of interceptions for the Lions defence to keep the Trojans on their heels.
The Trojans will be looking forward to a chance to beat the Green Eagles on Friday, which would secure them a playoff spot.
North Park was within a two-point converted touchdown of tying the Green Eagles back in Week 1, when they suffered an 11-3 loss.