It was a trying day for the Eagles in their first encounter with AAA football in the Winnipeg High School Football League. The opponent was not unfamiliar, the Eagles had faced the Vincent Massey Vikings four times over 17 years in the circuit. As in prior matches, Brandon was physical and well-prepared.
The game opened with a strong defensive effort by Dryden, which led to favourable field position. Much of the first quarter was spent on the Brandon side of the field. Jamie Nesbitt hauled in a 24-yard-pass from Carter Armstrong to move the ball into scoring range, but the Eagles could not capitalize. Both defences carried the play, as the two teams made small errors with the ball, timing and execution in Week 1 normally being an issue for all. After one period, the score was knotted at zeroes.
In the second frame, the Vikings dug themselves out of the hole with timely passes to sustain drives. Linebackers Gus Brosseau and Bailey Murrell made them earn yards on the ground. Gambling on third down from the Dryden 7 yard line, the deadlock was finally broken on a pass to the versatile Jayden Engel with 2:40 remaining. After the subsequent DHS drive was stalled deep in Eagle territory, Brandon was able to complete a 30-yard-pass for a score. At the half, the Vikings led 14-0.
Things became more challenging as the game wore on for the Blue and Gold. Already without their starting quarterback, Armstrong, who sustained a shoulder injury, backup Peter Zilkalns also had an arm issue, so he was unable to continue. In a solid display of doing whatever the team needed, Orren Fex stepped up and took over the reins. Having played a bit of the position three years prior -- and having some knowledge of the position as he manned the offensive line -- Fex managed to inject some life and the proper perspective to the team. Though Dryden never did manage to generate any points in the 32-0 outcome, the team continued to battle.
Though the coaches will need to watch film to more accurately understand what the next steps will be, much will be dependent on the health of the team. While Dryden certainly has AAA caliber players sprinkled through the lineup, the 2018 edition clearly needs to find an identity and establish something to rally around. Beginning with a focus on competing physically and battling for one another, the team must remain positive and become consistent in their fundamentals. Improvement throughout a season has always been a hallmark of the Eagles program and the team will look to do just that as they prepare for a team they haven’t faced for 12 years. Friday September 14 will be the annual Homecoming game, the 2pm kickoff will pit Dryden against the Sturgeon Heights Huskies who also enter the game at 0-1. The Huskies fell 14-1 to Sisler in their opener. Fans are encouraged to arrive before kickoff for a special ceremony honoring alum Scott Norman.
(Submitted by Geoff Zilkalns, head coach)