The Fort McMurray Monarchs are the CMFL National Champions after beating the Greater Toronto Area All-Stars in a game which can only be described as offensive.
After the first quarter, it looked like defense was going to be the highlight of the game, with the first 15 minutes producing a score of 7-3 for the Monarchs, the only touchdown coming from Quarterback Will Arndt running it in from two yards on the opening drive.
However both defenses had a shaky second quarter.
The Monarchs were able to get a quick touchdown, with Pascal Tshilambo catching a 24 yard pass, just able to keep his feet in at the back of the endzone, making it a 14-3 game.
The All-Stars were able to bounce back quickly with a touchdown of their own, but soon became victims of some magic tricks by QB Will Arndt. He was able to elude two possible sacks and find Dylan Elias in the corner of the endzone, making it a 21-10 lead for the Monarchs.
The very first play after the touchdown, All-Stars quarterback, Tommy Dennison, threw a pass right into the stomach of Monarch’s Cornerback, Jourdain Alexis, who was able to score giving the team an 18 point lead.
“Our linebacker, Jesse Maddux, called a play, he saw, he had a vision and I executed the way it was supposed to be and it was just like money,” said Alexis
But just as quickly as they were able to add to their lead, the Monarchs once again gave up a touchdown, this time a five yard run by Alex McFarland.
The flood gates didn’t end there as Tshilambo caught his second touchdown of the night, this time a 22 yard score from Arndt, leaving the score at half, 35-17 for the Monarchs.
Strong defense for the second half would ensure the team their first ever National Championship, but the reigning champs were far from throwing in the towel.
Quickly into the second Half, Arndt was able to run in for his second touchdown of the game, after an interception by Jesse Maddux, extending the lead to 25.
But that’s when the All-Stars offense started to kick in. Dennison started it off by throwing a 62 yard touchdown to Ricky Clarke.
Then the team was given a gift, as the Monarchs decided to go for it on third down right at half, with Arndt’s pass being intercepted by Loxley Prince, setting them up inside the 10 yard line.
Wide Receiver, Cleon Holmes would go on to catch a touchdown and a two point conversion. The ensuing kickoff was kicked through the back of the endzone giving the All-Stars an additional point, making it 42-33.
But Ardnt’s running game just couldn’t be stopped, running in for his third touchdown off the game, this time a 10 yard run.
The next drive for the All-Stars ends quickly as Alexis is able to get his second interception of the game.
The All-Stars were still able to get a 41 yard touchdown from Jahmeek Murray near the end of the quarter; however the 2 point conversion was dropped by Holmes keeping the score after three quarters at 49-39, for the Monarchs.
The fourth quarter started off with turnovers by both teams, first a turnover on downs, as the Monarchs were short by a couple of inches.
The next series, Aaron Gordon was able to get the Monarchs fourth interception, reaching over his head and practically doing a back flip before landing on his back, giving the Monarchs the ball at half.
The crowd, of 1,360, all let out a big gasp after Arndt fumbled the ball after a big gain, well into the All-Stars side of half, where All-Star, Kevin Coxall had the ball for a split second before losing it himself, leaving the ball to be picked up by running back, Melvin Abankwah.
They were able to escape with a field goal pushing the lead to 52-39.
The next series, turned out to be a three and out, turnover on downs, leading to a heated Tommy Dennison, ending with Will Arndt’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day, finishing with three passing touchdowns and four rushing.
“Good job by our offense but I was really just concerned with winning the game so the stats just come with it,” said Arndt.
With under a minute to go, Dennison was able to find Holmes for another touchdown, but the defense stood strong stopping the two point conversion.
All that was needed was a recovery on the All-Stars onside kick, which was accomplished without any problems, soon after Head Coach Dave Spence getting soaked by the famous Gatorade Shower.
“It’s a coach’s dream, it’s like a sign of relief knowing you did it once you get that shower, I’m freezing but I’m also happy at the same time,” said Spence.
As soon as final play of the game concluded, the team who at one point didn’t even know if they would have a season after the wildfire and evacuation, won the National Championship rushing the field celebrating their accomplishment.
Through the celebrations it still wasn’t loss, just what an intense game it was, ending with handshakes from both teams acknowledging the work done by the others.
“A lot of credit to them, they were a good football team, they were picking up on stuff as the game went on but it just goes back to all those hours we spent as a team together working on stuff, the spacing, the timing, so it’s a credit of the work we put in,” said Arndt. “It means a lot to the team, it means a lot to the city, we had players on the team whose houses burned down, to see everything that happened to the city, all the obstacles we faced with relocation and evacuation, to come back home to get a championship for this city in front of a good crowd is awesome.”
“We had a one man goal, we’re going to do it for the city, and since the first day we’ve always said it was for the city if we were going to do it, so I’m really happy that we’ve won that trophy for them and all of them that went through hell,” said Alexis.
After the trophy celebration, the hugs, laughter a still soaked Head Coach, Dave Spence was asked what he was going to take away from the game.
“The smiles and the happiness on everybody’s face knowing that we’ve reached our goal.”