The Holland College Hurricanes overcame injuries to defeat the UNB Saint John Seawolves 40-17 in their final regular season home game at the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place last Saturday.
The Hurricanes improved their record to 5-0 and clinched first place in the AFL, while the Seawolves dropped to 1-4.
Holland College head coach Andrew Hickey said he was happy with the win.
“We had some mental mistakes in the first half, but overall I think it was one of our better team efforts. They (the Seawolves) did a good job keeping our offence off the field, but once we started running the ball, the offensive line took over.”
Five minutes into the first quarter, Holland College put the first points on the board. Eugene McMinns’s 45-yard catch put the Hurricanes close, but they couldn’t get in the end zone so they settled on a field goal by kicker Jay Dearborn.
On the next possession, Seawolves quarterback Sean Galbraith fumbled the ball, and the Hurricanes recovered it. The drive ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Christian Hackney to receiver Andrew Rowe.
But the Seawolves drove the ball down the field, and a pair of penalties put them on the Hurricanes’ one-yard line. Running back Rob Fox punched it in to bring them within three points of the lead. On their next possession, they added a 10-yard field goal to tie the game at 10.
With four minutes left in the first half, Hurricanes linebacker Cardell Rolle intercepted a pass from Galbraith and took it to the end zone for a touchdown.
The Seawolves had trouble moving the ball, but they recovered an onside kick on the Hurricanes 40-yard line. After a 30-yard catch by receiver Sean Wedge, UNBSJ scored on a three-yard run by running back Caleb Morgan.
The score was tied 17-17 at half time.
Just minutes into the third quarter, McMinns received a rough hit. Anxious fans held their breath as he lay motionless on the turf and applauded when his team mates carried him off the field. He remained out of the game with a head injury.
The play was hard to watch, said Hickey.
“It was tough to see. Eugene’s a great guy and hopefully he’ll be okay. Obviously the guys were down, but they played for him, and they wanted to win the game for him.”
Running back Jamaal Storr said the players on the bench were shocked.
“It was sad. That’s my buddy from back home. I knew it was going to be a little tough.”
Fuelled by concern for their playmaker, Holland College marched the ball down the field and Storr rushed in for a touchdown, putting the Hurricanes ahead 24-17.
Storr said the offence gained momentum after they scored.
“We started off slow and the coach was like ‘Jamaal I need you to run hard for me,’ so I went in there and did my thing.”
Holland College also scored a field goal before the end of the third quarter.
The Hurricanes’ defence refused to let the Seawolves score, and their offence controlled the rest of the game.
Holland College receiver Steve Knapton scored his second touchdown of the season on a 28-yard pass from Hackney and receiver Ryan Walker also added a 15-yard score in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Hickey said his team will focus on consistency before their next game.
“We need to keep fixing our mistakes and work on consistency throughout the 60 minutes. We can’t just play 30 minutes, it’s 60 minutes of football.”
The Hurricanes will try to finish their season undefeated when they face the Dalhousie Tigers on Oct. 18 in Halifax.