The Spartans, with 16 rookies in the lineup, proved they will be very competitive in the Moncton Minor Football Atom League on Sunday afternoon. The Spartans pulled out a nail-biting 9-7 win over the Moncton Blue Bombers before over 200 people at Eric Johnston Field.
"A great performance by the kids,” said Spartans head coach John Turner. “There is such a huge learning curve for them, and to perform this way is very encouraging going forward.
“Obviously, there is lots we can improve on, but for our first game we are really excited as that was the Blue Bombers’ second game of the season and our first after the forfeit last week with Amherst."
Defence comes up big
The Spartans got an early boost from the defence, which stopped Moncton from Summerside’s five-yard line after a fumble on the opening kickoff.
"That was a huge momentum shift after giving up that turnover on the first play of the game, and not allowing Moncton in the end zone,” said Spartans defensive co-ordinator Todd Williams.
The Spartans then drove 109 yards after the defensive stop, had a first-and-goal from the two-yard line and were stopped one inch from the goal-line. However, the defence forced a three-and-out, and Summerside took possession after the punt on the Moncton 20-yard line with less than two minutes in the half.
After a 13-yard run by quarterback Connor Keough, big fullback Parker Williams went off tackle from seven yards out to give the Spartans a 6-0 lead. Keough then kicked the very important convert, which in atom football is three points, for a 9-0 lead.
Moncton drove down the field with seconds left in the half, but a big play by cornerback Max Chisholm on a deep ball at goal-line preserved the lead going into halftime.
Moncton drove 40 yards and scored on a nice passing play to cut the lead to 9-7 (passing touchdowns are worth seven points), with over 10 minutes left in the game. The all-important convert into the wind hit the crossbar.
The Spartans had another possession and were forced to punt, but the defence, again, stopped the Blue Bombers with just over two minutes left. The Spartans knew one first down would seal the win, and Keough ran 40 yards on a second-and-10.
"Our second-year players, and we only have four of them, played big in the big moments of the game,” said Turner. “We needed a first down late in the game and we got some great blocking, which lead to Connor's nice run. Then we knew we could run the clock with four knees.”
The Spartans host the Moncton Panthers on Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We have to work on our execution and blocking on offence, and our defence needs to take better angles and improve our tackling,” said Williams. “But, for the first game, we are very pleased with the result.”