Murphy's Law works in Junior Black Kats favour
Maritime Football: Murphy scores game winning TD in overtime as Kats defeat N.S. champion in bantam final

Published in the Fredericton Gleaner on Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Appeared on page B1

The coach of the Fredericton Junior Black Kats said it wasn't part of the preparation process.

But he said winning the Maritime bantam football championship in overtime Sunday in Dartmouth felt a little extra special for the players who were part of the Kats team which had lost in last year's Maritime final in triple overtime.

A one-yard plunge by running back Blake Murphy on their first series in overtime provided the winning margin in the Kats' 28-21 victory over the Dartmouth, N.S. Destroyers in the Maritime final before some 200 fans in Dartmouth.

A year ago, the Jr. Kats were 15-14 losers to the Annapolis Valley Bulldogs in triple overtime at Rocky Stone Field in Moncton.

The Bliss Carman Eagles of Fredericton were also vying for a Maritime pee wee title, but had a rough go of it against the Nova Scotia-champion Timberlea Titans earlier Sunday in Dartmouth, losing 54-6.

"All season, it's just been to focus on one game at a time,'' said Kats' coach David Knott. "I didn't mention what happened last year because I didn't want to put those negative thoughts in their minds. But some of the players talked about it, and I'm sure it helped some of them get ready.''

Sunday's final was a see-saw affair, with the teams tied at 14 at the half. The Jr. Kats were the first to score with quarterback Kyle Arsenault finding wide receiver Weston Durling in the end zone to culminate the team's opening drive.

The Destroyers would respond later in the first quarter on a touchdown by A'dre Fraser.

Running back Reid Johnson pushed the ball over from three yards out to give the Kats the lead again early in the second quarter, however, the Destroyers would drive the ball down the field in the waning moments of the half, with quarterback Cody Cluett pushing it over on a quarterback-keeper from one yard out. With the convert, the game was tied.

Arsenault would hit game MVP Tommy McGinn on a pass and run play covering 45 yards for the major score early in the third quarter, giving the Kats a 21-14 lead. They had a chance to pad the lead, scrimmaging from the Dartmouth one-yard line, however, a series of penalties pushed them out of scoring range.

With about 1:30 remaining, the Destroyers got on the board when Ashton Slawter returned a Phil Long punt for 70 yards and the touchdown. "That was tough because we could have pinned them in around the 10, but he made a couple of great moves and went all the way for the score,'' said Knott.

However, the convert attempt was blocked, so the Kats still led, 21-20. They tried to run out the clock, but with just under a minute to go, the Destroyers were able to drive the ball to the Kats 24-yard line. On third down, they punted the ball into the end zone, and Kats' Jeremie Boutot was unable to bring it out, accounting for the single point and tying the game at 21-21 at the end of regulation.

Destroyers won the coin toss for the overtime, and elected to have the Kats take the ball first. Rules in overtime call for the ball to be placed on the opponent's 35-yard line, with each team getting an attempt.

"We knew their weakness was to the right side, so that's where we wanted to take the ball,'' said Knott. In just four plays, Murphy was able to the end zone from one-yard out. Boutot's convert made it 28-21.

Big plays in the winning drive were an Arsenault pass to Weston Durling for about seven yards, a 13-yard run by Murphy and another run by Reid Johnson that got it to the goal-line. Murphy plunged over from there.

On their possession, Dartmouth quarterback Cody Cluett was able to drive the ball to about the Kats' 15-yard line, but that's where the drive stalled.

"It would have been nice to win it at home, but going there as a team on the bus like that sort of made it feel like we were going to the show,'' said Knott. "It helped that we had done it the week before in Moncton.''

The victory in Dartmouth completed a season which saw the Kats go 5-0-1 in regular Capital Minor Football League play, defeat Northside Jr. Lions 25-0 to win the Capital title, get past Hampton Huskies 24-14 in the provincial semifinal and capture their second straight N.B. title with a 46-0 hammering of the Moncton Highlanders last weekend in Moncton.

For the Ewart Kenny-coached Eagles, Sunday's final was a difficult finish for what had been an up-and-down season. Kenny said because of problems with their bus, the team arrived to the field just minutes before they were supposed to kick off, had to change into their gear on the bus, and be ready to play.

They fell behind 40-0 at the half, scoring their only touchdown in the third quarter when Eagles' game MVP Rob DeMerchant ran the ball in from about five yards out to complete a scoring drive. At that point, the Titans were ahead 48-0.

The Eagles were 4-3 in regular league action before getting hot in the playoffs, defeating Oromocto Panthers 30-18 in the Capital final before winning their first provincial pee wee title since 2002 with a come-from-behind 26-24 win over Lancaster Abbies in semifinal play and 14-12 over the Sackville Titans in the provincial final.