Mustangs 2015 Champions
The St. Vital Mustangs defeated the Transcona Nationals in Overtime to win the 2015 Play All Awards Midget Football League of Manitoba Championship.
Storm back to force OT, win Midget Championship
Winnipeg Sun || October 31, 2015
By Kirk Penton
Nationals' Steven Rawluk holds on to the ball as he flies through the air. (CHRIS PROCAYLO/Winnipeg Sun)
St. Vital Mustangs receiver Nick Liang experienced agony on the football field last month when he dislocated his hip in a game against the Greendell Falcons.
“They shoved it back in on the field,” Liang said. “The worst pain in my life.”
A month and a half later – late Saturday afternoon, to be precise – Liang was at the other end of the pain spectrum after his Mustangs edged the Transcona Nationals 23-17 in overtime in the Play All Awards Midget Football League of Manitoba final at Investors Group Field.
“It's the best feeling in the world for sure,” said a beaming Liang, who was named the game's offensive MVP after hauling in 212 yards worth of passes from quarterback Josh Jamieson.
The triumph was sweet revenge for Liang and other members of the Mustangs who went through the pain of losing 7-6 to the Nationals in last year's final.
“I've been thinking about it every day since, but then to have a good game like this, that's the best feeling ever," said Liang.
It looked for the longest time on Saturday that the Mustangs were headed for heartbreak once again, considering they trailed 17-7 with four minutes to go. They got to within a touchdown when Austin Heppenstall booted a 27-yard field goal with 3:39 to go, and then Jamieson connected with Liang for a 34-yard touchdown – on third-and-15, no less – and Heppenstall kicked the convert with 1:48 to go to tie it.
The Nationals tried to win it on the last play of regulation by punting it into or through the end zone from the Mustangs' 31-yard line, but the low snap scooted past punter Brandon Urciuoli and he had to fall on it.
“We had a lot of confidence going in, and we were telling the guys we got lots of time left in the game and lots of time to turn things around,” Mustangs head coach Craig Bachynski said. “But yeah, it was pretty tough (on the heart).”
Brandon Wilson, who would be named the game's defensive MVP, gave the Nationals a 3-0 lead on a 32-yard field goal four minutes into the game, but Jamieson found Jude Tanghe on a five-yard touchdown toss just two minutes later to give the Mustangs a 7-3 advantage.
Transcona regained the lead on Urciuoli's 15-yard touchdown run and took a 10-7 lead into the second half. The Nationals made it a 10-point lead on Matthew Snusher's 10-yard TD scamper early in the fourth quarter, but they couldn't hold on.
Overtime consisted of two five-minute halves, and the Mustangs got the only score, a one-yard plunge from Drey Warde near the end of the first overtime session. The convert was missed, but the Nationals turned the ball over twice in OT and couldn't get anything going.
“Things just seemed to kind of open up for our running game a little bit late in the third quarter and early in the fourth,” Bachynski said. “Both sides were experiencing injuries, guys getting taken off, and it gave us a chance to work some mismatches we weren't getting early on.
“I didn't expect overtime, but I expected it right down to the end. We played them last year. We lost 7-6 in the final. We got down to the six-yard line on the last play. We just knew it was going to be another slobber knocker next time we met.”
The Mustangs have won five of the last nine MFLM titles.
• • •
St. Vital Mustangs defensive lineman Caleb May didn't have a fumble recovery through eight regular season contests, the semifinal and 60 minutes of Saturday's Midget Football League of Manitoba championship match.
He finished the season with two fumble recoveries, which tells you how many he had in overtime during Saturday's final.
May snuffed Transcona's first offensive drive in OT when he jumped on the loose pigskin at his own 54-yard line, and St. Vital proceeded to march down the field and score the only points in extra time. He then recovered another fumble on Transcona's first possession of the second overtime frame.
The soft spoken lineman spread the credit around when it was pointed out his nose for the football prevented the Nationals from getting anything going offensively in OT.
“It was the whole team,” May said. “I had the fumble recoveries, but someone's gotta force the fumble. Someone else has gotta hit him first. Recovering the fumble is just one part of it. Our defense did crazy good. It was awesome.”
May's play allowed him to capture his first football championship in his sixth season of playing the sport.
Head coach Craig Bachynski praised May for being one of several players who rose to the occasion.
“He was hurt early on,” Bachynski said. “We weren't sure he was going to return to the game. He was out for some plays before half time. We had a lot of guys that just sucked it up towards the end and really gave it their all.”