Jr. Mustangs Beat Essex, At A Cost
OPFL - Junior Varsity FootballJohn Urban
On Saturday afternoon at City Wide Sports Park it was the OPFL Semi-Final in Junior Varsity Football, as the London Jr. Mustangs hosted the Essex Ravens. Recently coming off a 37-12 loss to London in their own nest down in Windsor, Essex was looking for some revenge. Not an easy task however, with the Jr. Mustangs finishing the 2018 regular season with a record of 7-1, winning their last 4 games, outscoring their opponents 150-30 during the recent streak.
The Ravens caught an early break in the contest when a 27-yard field goal attempt by #6 Oliver Griffiths hit the right upright and was no good. Both teams struggled to get their offenses going right away, as both Quarterbacks in #2 Ethan Chambers and #7 Emmitt Rosati were pressured by defensive schemes. This created not only a true playoff vibe, but a scoreless first quarter of football as well.
As with any sport between London-Windsor, the rivalry was getting heated, with pushing and shoving after whistles early in the 2nd quarter of play. The game continued to be a midfield defensive battle, with Punters seeing more success than Running Backs or Wide Receivers. With the Jr. Mustangs stuck near their own end zone, they would concede a Safety and with 7:16 left in the first half of action the fans would see the first points go up on the board. The 2-0 Essex lead wouldn’t last long and it was a big special teams play by #22 Adam Dekraker of London that really seemed to get the Jr. Mustangs offense in gear. His fumble recovery on a punt return, gave the best field positioning of the day for the home team to work with. Capitalizing shortly after with a TD run by #1 LJ Dyer, to make it 7-2 for the first taste of the lead with 3:09 left in the first half. From there, the floodgates opened, merely temporarily dammed by a halftime break. Just over two minutes later, the Jr. Mustangs would strike again, with the Quarterback #2 Ethan Chambers keeping the ball of a designed run, scampering into the end zone with 1:01 left in the 2nd quarter to make it 14-2 at halftime.
A first half featuring 16 points, 14 of which scored in the final 3:09 by London, was nothing like the second half which had 39 points and saw one team pull away. London’s #1 LJ Dyer would make a statement 37 seconds into the 3rd quarter with an 80+ yard TD run, followed exactly 3 minutes later with a 40-year TD catch to increase the lead to 28-2. The Ravens offense seemed to run through two avenues in #16 Malcolm Wallace and #19 Dante Daniels, but #7 Emmitt Rosati was having a tough time finding his weapons deep. That was until 3:03 left in the 3rd quarter when a beautiful deep pass by Rosati was reeled in by #16 Wallace for a 75+ yard TD catch for Essex’s first major of the day. Rosati and Wallace quickly connected again following the TD for a successful two-point conversion for a 28-10 score. London retaliated before the conclusion of the quarter with Punter #89 Curtis Fortune and utility knife #8 Jacob Saunders. A 70+ yard punt, would result in a rouge to make it 29-10 and 1:05 left in the quarter Saunders would intercept a Rosati pass, taking it back for a touchdown to bring the score to 36-10.
A 26 point lead with just one quarter left of play, nothing could go wrong for London right? Wrong. With 9:37 left, London’s star defensive player #24 Timo Sheele would receive a Targeting penalty on a questionable hit and be ejected from the game. With 6:17 a flock of Ravens would get to #2 Ethan Chambers for a sack that created a lower body injury for the Jr. Mustangs QB and take him out of a game, a game he probably should have been seeing from the bench at that point. #6 Oliver Griffiths made up for his earlier missed field goal, making one from 32-yards out to make it 39-10 with 5:07 left in the game. The Ravens did end their season on a high note, with #32 Anthony Paossi grabbing a short TD run with seconds left on the clock for a 39-16 final.
A 23-point playoff victory, awfully similar to the recent 25-point win over Essex in the regular season advances the London Junior Mustangs Junior Varsity Team into the Conference Finals against the Hamilton Jr. Tiger Cats, but at what cost? Baring an appeal to the league by London, #24 Timo Sheele should be unavailable by league rules from the Targeting penalty and will Quarterback #2 Ethan Chambers be 100% after not being able to walk off the field late in the 4th quarter? London does have the benefit of home field advantage and they did beat the Jr. Tiger Cats at TD Stadium back on May 26th 33-23. Something they might have to lean upon in order to continue their hunt for a Championship.