SUMMERSIDE – The P.E.I. Varsity Tackle Football League game between the visiting Cornwall Timberwolves and Summerside Cooke Insurance Clippers lived up to the hype.
The two teams clashed in a tight physical battle for first place in the regular season at Eric Johnston Field on Friday night. When the final whistle blew, the Clippers squeaked by the Timberwolves 28-14.
The Clippers completed the regular season undefeated at 6-0 (won-lost) while the Timberwolves sit second at 4-2. Both of Cornwall’s losses came to Summerside.
Also on Friday night, the Summerside Waterwise Spartans posted a 54-6 win over Cornwall to also complete the regular season 6-0.
Kieran Arsenault led the Spartans with one rushing score and two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Zackary Blood and Sean Matheson added scores on offence while Aiden Little had a major score on a punt return.
The Spartans’ special teams were also 6-for-7 on the convert.
Early defensive stand
The Clippers’ defence stopped the Timberwolves’ offence on a third-down gamble on the first drive of the game, and Summerside turned it into a 32-yard field goal by Caleb Dawson. On the ensuing series, the Clippers again had a third-down stop in Cornwall territory, and Ethan Haakman scored on a 35-yard touchdown run to give the host team a quick 9-0 first-quarter lead.
“We wanted to get off to a good start having the wind in the first quarter, and our defence made two huge stops on third down that we cashed in on and gave us the early momentum,” commented Summerside defensive co-ordinator Jeff MacDonald.
The rest of the first half was a defensive battle and control of field position, until Cornwall scored a touchdown midway through the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Hunter Pruse to tight end Adam Younker to cut the lead to 9-7 at halftime.
“Our game plan was not to turn the ball over, score when we had the wind and let our defence be just that, our defence, and we continued emphasizing this at halftime,” said Clippers head coach John Turner.
In the second half, the Clippers scored on their first possession as quarterback Nic Gunning and running back Caleb Dawson connected for a 60-yard pass-and-run touchdown for a 16-7 lead.
“Caleb is a gamer as he was banged up, and he made that big run after the catch,” noted Turner. “He then added the convert, which gave us a big two-score lead that was important early in the third quarter.”
Cornwall tried to cut into the Clippers’ lead, but two critical interceptions from Pruse by linebackers Breton Brown and Brayden Lawless set up two Summerside touchdowns – one a 35-yard pass from Gunning to Haakman, who made a nice leaping grab in the end zone, and another off a 25-yard run by Kyle Cameron on an interception that gave the Clippers a 28-7 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Cornwall hit a long pass from Pruse that set up the Timberwolves’ last touchdown to cut the lead to 28-14, but the failed onside kick was recovered by Cameron, and Summerside took two knees to seal the victory.
“It was a good football game and the turnover battle was the difference in this game, and the last time we played them down in Cornwall in September,” said Turner. “I’m sure we will be seeing them again down the road.
“We have quite a rivalry with (Cornwall), and we need to stop taking these bad undisciplined penalties. When you have a hundred yards in flags, there is a problem that we need to fix as coaches and quickly.
“It’s about controlled aggression, making a play and walking back to the huddle . . . period.”