SUMMERSIDE – All signs point to some old-fashioned football deciding the Potato Bowl on Saturday.
The Summerside Cooke Insurance Clippers will meet the Cornwall Timberwolves in the P.E.I. Varsity Tackle Football League’s championship game at Eric Johnston Field. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be extremely tight,” predicted Timberwolves head coach Mark Green. “We both have two really talented teams.
“I think it will come down to whichever defence steps up. Both teams can run the ball, pass and score.”
The Clippers, who defeated the Souris Wildcats in a semifinal game last week, finished the regular season undefeated atop the four-team league at 6-0 (won-lost). Cornwall, which eliminated the Charlottetown Privateers in the semifinals, was second at 4-2, with both losses coming to the Clippers. Those scores were 17-1 on Sept. 14 and 28-14 on Oct. 19.
“Our regular-season games with Cornwall were very close, intense and they were very exciting games to play and coach in,” said Clippers head coach John Turner. “We expect the same in the Potato Bowl, and we believe it will, once again, come down to the team that wins the turnover battle.”
Both games, however, were much closer than the final scores indicate.
“It came down to a one- or two-possession game,” said Green. “The first game, Summerside stopped us on the goal-line (late in the first half), and that would have given us the lead. Then they came back and scored on us (to go ahead 14-1), which completely changed the atmosphere of the game.
“The second game was extremely close going into halftime (9-7 in favour of the Clippers).”
Summerside will look to its veterans on both sides of the ball. Senior Caleb Dawson, who handles the punting and kicking chores along with playing wide receiver and running back, will be counted on to deliver a big game for the Clippers.
“We only have two seniors on offence, so we are young,” said Turner. “We believe in all of them to do their jobs on Saturday, and Caleb needs to lead the way.”
Turner noted Cornwall has a solid defence that limited the Clippers to just 45 points in two games.
“Mark and Richard (Lush) have developed a very strong program down there, and their team will be ready on Saturday,” emphasized Turner. “We expect this to be the best final in the varsity league in the last five or six years, which is exciting for our league.
“We need to make those critical plays that happen in big important football games, and protect the football.”
There is another factor to keep an eye on, added Green.
“The third and longs, whether you go for it or you punt?,” said Green, who coached Cornwall to the 2017 P.E.I. Bantam Tackle Football League championship. “It’s going to be a field-position game.”
The Clippers feature a veteran group defensively, led by seniors Luke Trainor, Alex McGrath and Kyle Wilson.
“We need our D-line to keep their gap integrity and setting the edges for our run-and-pass defences, and let our linebackers Breton Brown, Brayden Lawless and senior Dexter Stewart take care of the tackling,” offered Summerside defensive co-ordinator Jeff MacDonald. “Dexter, Kyle, Alex, Luke, Dakota (Fear) and Drake (Gallant) have been in our program since Grade 8, and this might be their last competitive football game of their career.
“They know what’s at stake, and what our D needs to do to contain Cornwall, both defensively and on special teams.”
Green said the Timberwolves will rely on quarterback Hunter Prus, along with Dominic Green and Christian Desreux, on the offensive side of the ball.
“They have an extremely big powerful defensive line,” Green said in pointing out the important role Cornwall’s offensive line will play in a successful running game.
Defensively, Joseph Bertram, Tyler Newson, David Good and Frankie Woods will be key players for Cornwall, noted Green.
Keys to success
Clippers assistant coach Brian Doucet stressed the importance of discipline. In Summerside’s last meeting against Cornwall, the Timberwolves gained over 100 years courtesy of Summerside penalties.
“If we give Cornwall free yards due to undisciplined penalties, we will be in trouble,” added Doucet. “We need to make the play, head back to the huddle and let our play do the talking.”
Green says execution will be a key for the Timberwolves.
“We have size, we have to know our responsibilities and execute on each play,” he said.
Recent winners of the Potato Bowl:
2017 – Summerside Clippers.
2016 – Summerside Clippers.
2015 – Summerside Clippers.
2014 – Charlottetown Privateers.
2013 – Souris Wildcats.
2012 – Souris Wildcats.
2011 – Souris Wildcats.
2010 – Souris Wildcats.
2009 – Souris Wildcats.
2008 – Sours Wildcats.
2007 – Cornwall Timberwolves.
2006 – Charlottetown Colonels.