Published on November 03, 2013
Holland College Hurricans Christian Hackney looks to pass during Moosehead Cup action Saturday against the host UNB Saint John Seawolves.
Published on November 03, 2013
Holland College Hurricans Garrett Cesaire takes down UNB Saint John Seawolves Curtis MacMillan during Moosehead Cup action at the Canada Games Stadium Saturday in Saint John, N.B.
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – On a November night made for football at Canada Games Stadium, the Holland College Hurricanes were finally rewarded for their efforts and earned the right to hoist the Moosehead Cup.
The road to gridiron glory was rocky for the Prince Edward Island school, at least in terms of earlier outcomes. The Hurricanes entered the title tilt with a 1-4-1 record, but their sub-.500 showing means nothing now that they’re Atlantic Football League playoff champions.
The P.E.I. pigskin squad had to slay the biggest dragon of the bunch, recording a 20-12 victory over the first-place University of New Brunswick Saint John Seawolves, 5-1 entering the final. And a local product played a pivotal part in the outcome, albeit for the visiting team.
Jordan Blizzard’s 80-yard run in the fourth quarter set up a key field goal by Jay Dearborn that ultimately sealed the deal for Holland College.
“I felt it there,” Blizzard said of the momentum swing after his game-breaking run. “I tried to push for the six points, but I gassed out. It felt good, for sure. There were some great blocks up front and that play just really showed what everyone is capable of, and we put the dagger in them.”
But not long before Blizzard’s big run, the Seawolves were in position to take over. With a little over four minutes left, UNBSJ’s Alex McGarvey recovered the ball on an on-side kick.
The Seawolves had the ball at Holland College’s 40-yard line with 2:49 left, but an interception gave the visitors new life. Blizzard, the former Harbour View High School standout, broke free for his 80-yard effort and ran the ball a couple of more times, giving Holland College prime field position.
With 1:20 left, Holland College called a timeout and Dearborn followed with his field goal for a 20-12 lead to complete the scoring. UNBSJ’s last charge was stymied by Richard Lush’s interception, leading to a mass exit by the Port City patrons.
But a good chunk of the nearly 1,500 fans, a noisy cheering section from Holland College, remained at the Stadium. Shortly after the final play, several players came into the stands to celebrate with them.
The fans from the Island then joined the players on the field, where they watched the presentation of the Moosehead Cup. The Seawolves were presented with the Jack Irving Cup for finishing first in the regular season.
“It was a great game and it was nice to finish my career with a win and a championship,” Blizzard said. “It’s a great accomplishment. It’s a great bunch of guys and I’m really proud of them.”
Blizzard studied plumbing at Holland College and is working on his apprenticeship. His wife, Robin, went to P.E.I. to study nursing two years ago, and the couple has found a home there.
“It means a lot,” Blizzard said about bringing back a banner for his school. “I love Saint John, it’s my home and it’s in my heart, but Holland College has a great program and the coach (Mark MacDougall) has put in so much work.
“It’s a real honour to be able to bring home a championship for them. We plan to settle there, it’s such a wonderful spot.”
The Hurricanes earned a berth in the AFL final with 21-16 semifinal win over the Dalhousie University Tigers in Halifax. The other semifinal saw the Seawolves dominate the UNB Fredericton Red Bombers to the tune of 44-14.
And even though UNBSJ defeated Holland College twice during the regular season, both games were close. Before the opening kickoff, Seawolves associates were quick to point out that the Hurricanes were better than their record indicated.
“We were definitely (competitive) the whole season, but we did have some rough (patches),” Blizzard said. “It feels great to come through in the clutch. The last three games were our best games and we really came on toward the end and did well.”
Dan Duplessis kicked a field goal to give the Seawolves a 3-0 lead on their opening drive of the game. With just over three minutes left in the first quarter, Dearborn booted a 25-yard field goal to even the affair 3-3.
The second quarter saw Holland College quarterback Christian Hackney hit Jay Hillier for a 12-yard touchdown pass, followed by the extra point for a 10-3 lead. With a little over seven minutes left in the second, UNBSJ’s Caleb Morgan ran the ball into the end zone from close range and Duplessis added the extra point for a 10-10 tie.
Dearborn kicked a rouge from midfield late in the second, giving Holland College an 11-10 lead that stood through halftime. The Seawolves took a 12-11 lead on a safety in the third quarter, but Holland College struck back when Garvin Cius returned a punt for 60 yards.
Cius’ effort set up a drive that eventually led to a second-and-goal situation, allowing quarterback Christian Hackney to dive into the end zone for a 17-12 lead. The Hurricanes couldn’t convert the two-point attempt.
The Seawolves ended the third quarter with a sack by Sean Craig, giving the hosts the jolt they needed. But the tides turned on the interception, followed by Blizzard’s blast down the field.
UNBSJ’s Charlie Harroun carried the ball often and gave his team valuable yards, but the Kennebecasis Valley High School product credited his rival running back.
“He’s a great player,” Harroun said of Blizzard. “He’s slippery when he gets going and he’s hard to bring down. Any big run like the one he had in any game is going to give a team momentum.”
Blizzard was equally complimentary toward Harroun.
“Charlie is the best running back I ever played with,” Blizzard said. “I have a lot of history with him and he’s a great guy. We couldn’t stop him early.”
Saturday’s setback marked the final game of Harroun’s UNBSJ football career. And while the loss stung, he’s proud of what the club accomplished.
“I was on the team the first year we started and I’ve been on it ever since,” the 24-year-old said. “We’ve gone upward every year. We’ve had our ups and downs like every team. We just have to keep moving forward.”
On Holland College’s website leading up to Saturday’s final, MacDougall admitted the Hurricanes came into the contest as the “underdog.” But the head coach also pointed out that his squad had been playing its best football of the season in the “last two games’’ before the title match.
“Their record doesn’t mean anything,” Harroun said. “They’re a good team and we didn’t expect to walk over them, by any means.
“It was a hard-fought game. I wouldn’t say we played our best, but we fought hard and they fought hard. They’re a good, hard-hitting team and it was a physical game. You don’t always win.”
– From the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal