Saints narrowly defeat Beefeaters in epic championship game

Kenneth Pastushyn
By Kenneth Pastushyn October 27, 2023 12:41

Saints narrowly defeat Beefeaters in epic championship game

By Kenneth Pastushyn

Players from the St. Clair Saints and the London Beefeaters congratulate one another after a hard-fought Ontario Football Conference championship game at Acumen Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Photo by Ken Pastushyn.

The Saint Clair Saints and the London Beefeaters played for the Ontario Football Conference championship at Acumen Stadium on Oct. 21. 

In OFC lore, it would become a game of epic-proportions. In terms of sheer excitement, it matched any of the lists of great Canadian Football League Grey Cup games found online. 

On the final few plays of the game, the football gods would be on the side of the Saints. 

The game was a defensive struggle during the first half and a see-saw battle for the entire third quarter as well as much of the fourth quarter with multiple lead changes. 

At the three-minute warning, the Saints led 25-18 and that’s when the roller-coaster ride of a football game really started to go up and down. 

The Beefeaters would score a touchdown to tie the game with 1:48 remaining. 

The Saints countered with a quick touchdown drive resulting in a 32-25 lead with only 23 seconds taken off the clock. 

The Beefeaters answered with a scoring drive of their own. In just a few plays, the Beefeaters drove the ball down the field and capped it off with a touchdown making the game 32-31. 

The head coach of the Beefeaters opted for a two-point conversion attempt for the lead as opposed to  a point-after kick, in hopes the team could end it right there. 

Unfortunately, that was not the case, a trick-play was called: One of the Beefeaters offensive tackles declared himself an eligible receiver and couldn’t hold onto the pass thrown to him when he was wide open in the corner of the end zone. 

With only 55 seconds left, the Beefeaters had no choice but to try an onside kick in hopes of recovering the ball. 

All the “good hands” players on the special-teams unit were anticipating an onside-kick and positioning themselves along the line where the ball was required to travel at least 10 yards. 

Somehow, the Beefeaters did manage to recover the ball. 

On the next play, the Beefeaters completed a pass all the way to the Saints 20-yard-line. The Beefeaters were well within the range of kicking a winning field goal. 

It was déjà vu to the many of the 1,000-plus fans at Acumen Stadium who were also in attendance during the 2021 OFC final when the Beefeaters rallied against the then nicknamed St. Clair Fratmen. 

In 2012, during the three-minute warning, the Fratmen led 14-0. Then a bad snap sailed over the punters head into the end zone where the Beefeaters pounced on the ball to make it a 14-7 game. Two plays after the kickoff, the Fratmen punted back to the Beefeaters. And two passing plays later, the Beefeaters scored another touchdown to tie the game 14-14 with only a minute to go. 

On the kickoff return, the Fratmen fumbled the ball and the Beefeaters recovered which set up the  game-winning “rouge” (when the ball is kicked in the end zone for a single point.) 

Could the Saints be cursed? 

Back to 2023 at the Saints 20-yard-line, the Beefeaters ran the ball all the way to the five-yard-line  before it was stripped out of the hands of the running back. This time it would be the Saints pouncing on the ball in the end zone and holding onto their 32-31 lead to win back-to-back championships against the Beefeaters. 

On Oct. 29, the Saints will travel to Saskatoon to play the Prairie Football Conference champion for a chance to advance to the Canadian Junior Football League’s Canadian Bowl.

Kenneth Pastushyn
By Kenneth Pastushyn October 27, 2023 12:41

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