By Verity Stevenson
Special to The Guardian
QUISPAMSIS, N.B. — The Saint John Wanderers are off to the Maritime Football League championship game after a 44-20 victory over the P.E.I. Privateers on Saturday at Usher Miller Field.
For the first-place Wanderers, it was their sixth straight win of the season.
The Privateers can take heart in the fact that Saint John had allowed only 15 points all season long.
“I think we’re going to spend some time working on our defence because when a team scores (20) points on us, then we’re not playing very well,” said Wanderers’ head coach Phil McGarvey.
The last time the two teams met was in June and the Wanderers triumphed with a 45-0 score.
Privateers’ coach Vernon MacIntyre highlighted the number of points his team scored.
“We came a lot closer than other teams did; we scored more points than anyone else has all year, so I’m pretty proud of my guys and all they gave today,” said MacIntyre, who’s team finished last in the four-team league with a 1-3-1 record.
Jon Haines pointed to a newer defence in the team to answer to MacGarvey’s assertion.
“Offensively we’re clicking — it’s pretty obvious: we’re putting up 40 points a game,” he said. “(In) defence, there’s been more of a changeover in the defensive players, so they’re still working on schemes, that’s all that is.”
New wideout Justin Cavan scored the first touchdown in the first quarter on an 85-yard kickoff return, setting the pace for two more touchdowns on his part later in the game.
Jon Haines, who also had three touchdowns, added his first with a 45-yard run, putting the Wanderers ahead 14-6 in the second quarter.
Michael McVene scored the first major for the Privateers.
P.E.I., which was playing with a bench of 20 players while the Wanderers had a roster of 35, often called in an extra body onto the field, or for a water break.
The Privateers tallied two touchdowns in the second half and were good on a two-point conversion.
The last touchdown came in the dying seconds from star quarterback Chris (Tex) Mutch, who had been hurt earlier in the game.
When Cavan scored on an 80-yard run late in the game, Mutch was called for showboating from the bench.
“That’s just football; people get heated,” he said with a smile after the game. “You know, when you’re in a physical battle, you want things to come out your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you start looking for outside sources.”
Cavan explained that he had turned around to see if he should keep running.
He had left those running and lunging a few yards behind him.
“When I was running, everyone stopped, so I turned around because I thought it was a penalty.”
Haines said the team’s chemistry showed throughout the game.
“Our team came together very well,” he said.
“I’d say the average age is probably around 25 to 26, and so all those young guys have all been playing ball together for last five, six, seven years, so it builds team chemistry.”
In other semifinal game Saturday, the Capital Area Gladiators beat the Moncton Mustangs 30-8.
The Wanderers will host the Gladiators in the McIntyre Cup championship game next Saturday at 4 p.m.