It was a bright beautiful day in Charlottetown with above normal temperatures and a wild wind which would affect the kicking game. But the Dalhousie Tigers did not show up in the first half and the Holland College Hurricanes took a 25-2 half time lead.
The Tigers ignited in the second half and closed the game to 25-19 at three quarters. Excitement was back for the Black and Gold but the D allowed another long major and the Hurricanes won their third consecutive Atlantic Football League championship, 32-24.
Dalhousie did not take advantage of the wind in the first quarter and their O both run and pass was ineffective. An excellent punt, by Rob Wilson left HC deep in their end and they would concede a safety, leaving the Tigers with a 2-0 lead. Jeff Hillier silenced a good size contingent of Black and Gold as he streaked 85 yards for a touchdown. Punter Jay Dearborn’s single made the score, 8-2 and Steve Knapton’s 35 yard touchdown run increased Holland’s lead to 13.
Anton Sianchuk, the Canes’ QB, was the star of the first half making Tiger tacklers miss while running the read option offence. His end zone pass to Brandon Whitman was deflected to Dearborn for the weird 30 yard major. Earlier David Parkhill had recovered a Holland fumble at Dal’s 51 but the Tigers were again, two and out.
After a long wind assisted punt, Dal took over on their seven but the usually sure-handed Zach Leger fumbled and Holland College took over on the Tiger’s 17. The Dal D held and the Maroon and White had to settle for a 24 yard FG by Colin Trewin, who had converted the previous majors, and the second half ended 25-2, in favour of the hometown squad.
Halftime adjustments and pep talks saw the revitalized Tigers look like the team that had won five consecutive games, one, a 22-8 victory over the previously undefeated Hurricanes. Shannon connected with Alex Bayne for an 88 yard near major. Stopped at the two, Hunsley completed the drive and Wilson’s PAT narrowed the score to 25-9.
Then the weird and wild erupted.
A punt return by Kenzie MacNeil was very close to the HC bench. A flag was thrown. It was hard to tell what it was for? No yards, illegal block or maybe unnecessary roughness, may have been the call? Regardless, Holland’s head coach Quinlan, lost his poise to put it mildly. He threw his headset in the direction of an official and rushed his way to the sideline hash marks before being restrained by numerous players and coaches of the Canes. At 8:32 of the third quarter, he was ejected from the game and escorted off the field.
One of the announcers doing the web-cast was heard to blame the officials, saying one of them probably goated Quinlan. For the first time in league history, a mixed NB/NS crew worked the championship game. The game was a flag filled affair. Dal had 8 flags (5/3) and Holland 18 (6/12). The Tigers had 5 URs (unnecessary roughness) while the Hurricanes had 3 URs, 5 OC s (objectionable conduct) and a player ejected. These stats only include the penalties that were accepted. It is assured that AFL commissioner Wisniewski will be addressing the coach ejection and the mass of penalties.
The Tigers end up with possession on the HC 30 and this could be the turning point of the tilt. A pass interference call, one of five in the game by the Canes and a 15 yard questionable completion and a fumble near the Cane’s end zone, spell disaster as the Black and Gold walk away with nothing!
A MacNeil pick gave the Dalhousians another shot. Shannon completions to Louis Gauvin and two to Hunsley have the Tigers on the HC 12. Shannon is sacked but a PI call in the end zone give the Tigers first on the one. Hunsley punches it in! The convert is good and the score is Dal 16 and HC 25. Why did the Tigers not go for two and make it a one possession game?
Knapton made that point moot as he connected on a 61 yard catch and run TD from Sianchuk for the 32-16 lead.
The Tigers had a few more opportunities. One snuffed by a bad snap, another by a Shannon pick. But there was still time. To be exact, 1:10 was remaining. Two more HC PIs later and then Shannon hit Bernier from the 7 and next Kavanagh for the two point conversion. The ensuing short squib kick was smothered by the Hurricanes and the Dal Tigers lost a hard fought 32-24 title game.
Head coach Wetmore and his staff would be proud of the team’s grit and determination as they battled back, winning the second half and especially of their season record. No Tiger team had won five games in the brief six year history of the team. And the future looks bright for Dalhousie football as over 75% of the team may return next year.