The St. Albert Storm huddles up Thursday with a championship on the line in the midget spring league tier III final.
Kickoff is 6 p.m. versus the Sherwood Park Wolverines at Spruce Grove.
“To win a trophy would be pretty sweet,” Grade 11 fullback Josh Groskopf said at Monday’s practice. “It’s always great to end the season on a good note. Hopefully we can do that on Thursday.”
The tier I squad of Grade 9, 10 and 11 players is coming off its first win after four losses following Saturday’s 24-7 defeat of the Battle River Shock in the tier III/IV playoffs at Clarke Park.
“It was a relief,” said Spencer Dobko, a Grade 11 centre. “We won the first game against the guys who won it two years in a row [13-8 April 11 over the Parkland Outlaws] so it felt really good to finally get a win again after losing four.”
The Wolverines and Storm finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the six-team tier I standings with 1-4 records and were relegated into the tier III/IV playoff bracket. The Storm got shut out twice in league play and gave up 43 more points than they scored. The Wolverines had a minus-96 rating.
“We didn’t really lose any of those games too badly except maybe one [27-0 May 2 to the first-place Edmonton Chargers],” Groskopf said.
The Wolverines played the role of spoilers in last month’s historic first-ever football game on the new artificial turf at Riel Recreation Park with a 15-11 victory over the Storm in a nasty cold wind. After a scoreless first quarter it was 3-2 Storm at halftime and 8-3 Wolverines after three quarters.
“The weather really wasn’t to our advantage but we didn’t play like ourselves either,” Dobko said. “This week it will be a little different. I’m not guaranteeing anything, but I think we’re going to come out and play real well.”
In the Storm’s last trip to the final they lost the tier I championship in their inaugural 2006 season to the Sherwood Park Rams 30-7 to finish with a 4-3 record. Last year the tier II Storm team went 2-5 as tier III playoff consolation finalists while the tier I team didn’t win a game.
“It would be really great if we could win it for the program,” said Dobko, a third-year midget who played on both sides of the ball for the tier II Storm last year.
The playoff victory over the Shock, a tri-county club serving Camrose, Wetaskiwin and Ponoka that placed first in tier II at 4-0 (166 PF/18 PA), was a major confidence booster. Grade 10 standout Mike Spagnolo threw touchdown passes to Brad Quartel and the Rudko brothers, Jeremy and Jordan, in the Storm’s biggest scoring outburst of the season.
“Our offence was really moving the ball well and we had trouble doing that in a lot of the other games,” Groskopf said. “We started off really slow in the first quarter and didn’t go as well as we would have liked but we really picked it up for the rest of the game. It was a real good effort. Everyone was working hard.”
After almost fumbling the kickoff away, the Storm were pinned deep in their end and were forced to punt. The first play on offence for the Wolverines was a touchdown pass.
The Storm got on the board before the half ended with a TD.
“Once our offence finally got something going we pretty much dominated them,” said Dobko, 17. “Our defence had five or six turnovers and basically held us in there the whole game.”
Dobko and Groskopf, 16, were co-recipients of the junior St. Albert Hawks’ outstanding lineman award in 2008. Dobko split duties at centre and guard while lining up at defensive tackle. Groskopf also filled in on the defensive line for the 2007 and 2008 Metro Edmonton premier finalists while spending time in the Hawks’ backfield as a blocking back.
“After losing two junior finals [with the Hawks] it would be pretty exciting to win a championship,” said Groskopf.
THIRD DOWN: The top four teams in tier I qualified for the tier I/II playoff round.
The Wolverines advanced to the tier III final by knocking off the Leduc StrayCats 25-7. Leduc placed second in tier II at 3-1 (108 PF/79 PA). Leduc and the Shock will compete in the tier IV final at 8 p.m. Thursday at Spruce Grove.