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Hurricanes lose to Seawolves in season opener

September 15, 2013

By Thomas Becker

Charlottetown, PE—Inconsistency and turnovers by both teams led to a close fought battle, ending in a 38-34 loss for the Holland College Hurricanes to the UNB Saint John Seawolves in Atlantic Football League action Saturday in Saint John.

Head coach Mark MacDougall said he liked a lot of what he saw on the field, but with a majority of new players on the team, he understands why there were inconsistencies.

“This is not unusual for the first game of the year, especially since a lot of young players are making the jump from high school football. We will have a look at the film and make corrections. We are still evaluating players and making adjustments.”

The Seawolves struck first in the opening kickoff. The Hurricanes were unable to return the kick from their end zone, giving the Seawolves a 1-0 advantage. A field goal followed shortly after, extending their lead to 4-0.

After a series of shaky possessions, the Hurricanes converted their first first down half way through the first quarter when a spectacular catch was made by wideout Eugene McMinns, who used his athleticism to jump above his defender to make the 35-yard reception. But the drive was short lived. A bad snap led to a 30-yard loss, resulting in a punt. The punt could not be corralled by the Seawolves punt returner, leading to a fumble. The fumble was recovered and carried to the house by Yuriah Waller, giving the Hurricanes their first touchdown of the season. Kicker Jay Dearborn added the point-after to make it 7-4, with under five minutes to go in the quarter.

The Seawolves ended the quarter with a 30-yard run. Their ground game would prove to be the Hurricanes’ Achilles heel the entire afternoon.

“Saint John has a strong run game, no question. They have some big backs and they run hard. We needed to find a way to get to them before they got momentum going and we didn’t do that early on,” MacDougall said.

Entering the second quarter, the Seawolves would complete their drive with a 22-yard reception by the slot receiver. Seawolves led 11-7.

The Hurricanes fifth drive was their most successful. After a 30-yard kick return led to great field position, quarterback Christian Hackney and McMinns connected on a 3rd and 2 situation with a 30-yard catch. The successful drive ended in a 6-yard dash by running back Layton Aitken. Dearborn added the extra point for the Hurricanes, giving them a 14-11 edge.

A couple of costly Hurricane penalties allowed the Seawolves to move up the field with ease, but the Hurricane defense held strong, forcing a punt. On the punt return, a turnover led to another Seawolves score and an 18-14 advantage.

The Hurricanes responded with 34-yard field goal by Dearborn, inching closer to their opponent, 18-17.

With under two minutes to go in the half, Garvin Cius recovered a Seawolves fumble, which set up a 35-yard field goal by Dearborn, ending the half with 20-18 lead.

Heading into the third quarter, the Seawolves continued to go to their running back, Charlie Harroun, gaining large chunks of yards. However, the Seawolves were unable to score.

Hurricanes linebacker Cardell Rolle forced another Seawolves miscue, stripping the ball from the hands of the running back. Rolle’s theft and 87-yard run extended their lead to 26-18.

The Seawolves, who didn’t throw very often, used a 35-yard completion on their next drive to get down to the Hurricanes 1-yard line, resulting in a touchdown the following play. The Hurricanes lead was shaved down to 26-24.

An errant snap on the Hurricanes next possession led to 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The sudden 13-point turnaround gave the Seawolves the lead once more, 31-26.

Turnovers continued to play a role in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes capitalized on a Seawolves fumble and scored on a 13-yard reception by Jeff Hillier, retaking the lead 33-31, with under 12 minutes to go.

In this back and forth affair, it didn’t take long for the Seawolves to respond, scoring on a 47-yard touchdown pass a minute later.

With less than five minutes in the game, Hackney went to his favourite target of the night, McMinns, who hauled in a 40-yard catch, which was followed by 28-yard catch by Rodney Blaise. Despite getting down the field with relative ease, the Hurricanes came away empty on the drive.

From there, the Seawolves had the clock on their side and were able to fend off the Hurricanes for the 38-34 victory.

Offensive co-ordinator Andrew Hickey said he likes the team’s ability to make big plays, but sustaining drives will be a point of emphasis for the coming weeks.

“We need to work on sustaining drives and keeping our defence on the sidelines. I thought our passing game was a bright spot and that will be important for us going forward. We need to be more balanced though and be able to run the ball better.”

The Hurricanes return home 0-1 as they prepare for their home opener against the UNB Red Bombers on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the UPEI Alumni Canada Games Place.

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Tel: (902) 566-9695

 

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