Talk about coming right down to the wire.
The Fort McMurray Monarchs proved their triumph over the country on Saturday night, escaping a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter to pull out a big 25-24 victory over the visiting GTA All-Stars – claiming the crown as 2018 CMFL champions.
It’s the second time in three years the Monarchs have been crowned National Champs, after a 59-45 win back in 2016 over the same GTA squad.
Head Coach Jesse Maddox, who not only coached his last game but also suited up for the Monarchs, tells Mix News this win caps off a personally memorable stint within the organization.
“The National team in 2016, with the fires was really sentimental for the city. Today was sentimental personally because I didn’t have Dave Spence with me. This was something I was doing with coaching, playing, recruiting – the whole nine yards, running the team, having Will (Sadlemeyer) helping out, so, this one meant a lot to me. It really hit home.”
The Monarchs entered the half down 17-7 – but an All-Stars fumble inside the Fort McMurray ten yard line swayed all the momentum in the home team’s favour.
Quarterback Karsten Miller struggled through the game with accuracy but he avoided turnovers and came up in the clutch when it mattered most – coming up with some key running plays to keep the chains moving.
That included a short rush which lead to the go-ahead touchdown, giving the Monarchs their first lead of the game.
Running Bryce Harper was like an undersized stallion for the Monarchs’ offense, playing well beyond his small frame and at times, dragging tacklers on his back and keeping the offensive wheels in motion – much to the delight of the fans in attendance.
After capitalizing off All-Star miscues and going up 22-17, the Monarchs put the proverbial icing on the cake with a field goal from kicker Ideen Samadi to go up by eight.
All seemed well for a moment, with the Monarchs’ sideline hooting, hollering and firing up the crowd more than they had been all night.
However, they were quick to learn all that glitters is not gold.
With around three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the All-Stars stormed down field and despite fumbling snaps twice on the drive – were able to slice through the Monarchs’ defense and capitalize for a quick touchdown, cutting the lead to two.
One of those fumbled snaps actually turned out to be a huge 15-yard gain for GTA quarterback Jason Bertrand – after he scooped up the ball and blazed through multiple defenders – leaving Fort McMurray scrambling for a response.
Despite the touchdown, on arguably the most significant play of the game, the All-Stars couldn’t convert on their 2-point attempt, leaving them down with 30 seconds on the clock and a kickoff on the way.
That admittedly gave Maddox a fair amount of anxiety.
“Well, they had that bad snap but still ran a 15-yard play. I was like ‘oh my,’ but you know, at the end of the day, we pressured down, they scored the late one but when it mattered – we came out on top and took care of business.”
The All-Stars still had a few tricks up their sleeves, though. Unsurprisingly they came at the Monarchs’ return team with an onside kick that soared perfectly through the air, bounced off multiple players on each side before landing out of bounds.
Much to the dismay of the Fort McMurray faithful, the officials gave possession to the All-Stars – giving them one more breath at life.
Once again the GTA squad had a chance to capitalize but the Monarch’s defense, in its biggest moment of all – came through.
Stymieing the offensive attack, the All-Stars had to settle for the long field goal with seconds on the clock, which would have given them the lead and likely the title.
However, on the ensuing kick, with the Monarchs stacking the line – pressure set in and the kick sailed short and way left of the uprights.
Noting the ball was wide the moment it left the tee, the home crowd erupted and players on the Monarch’s sideline began to ecstatically celebrate the almost assured victory that lied ahead of them.
Having suited up for what was his final career game as a player, even getting to chip in one some key plays, Maddox feels there was no better way he could’ve imagined going out.
“I took most of this year off (as a player), I played enough to be eligible – just in case and we had some injuries and some things going on we needed to fix. So, I came on and played. This is my last game and actually my last game as head coach and President, so, I’m out of here.”
The Monarchs will be back at it in 2019, with a new head coach, new President and a new desire to continue their nationwide domination.
— MIX 103.7 News (@Mix1037FMNews) September 16, 2018