A week ago, the Lasalle Lancers threw a definite scare into the Confederation Chargers.
There was no debating the fact that a Lasalle team which had graduated a bevy of talent from their 2019 championship team was continuing their trend of gradual progression.
But one also sensed, with the teams having seen each other a few times already, that the Chargers may have taken their foot off the gas, just a little, having to come from behind to secure a late win in the regular season finale.
With the Pool A title on the line Thursday night at the Lasalle Dome, coach Brad Smith and company were not about to make that same mistake twice.
"I think that we mentally prepared ourselves, knowing that we could get back up, no matter what," suggested 16 year-old defender Chloe Pitura.
There would be no need to get back up.
Taylor Ferguson recorded an interception on the very first Lancer possession, setting up a Confederation touchdown pass from quarterback Zoe Roper to Chelsea Leduc. On their second possession, the Chargers benefitted from a fortuitous bounce, a ball tipped high in the air that landed directly into the hands of a streaking Kailey Beggs.
Before they knew what hit them, the Lancers trailed 14-0. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Confederation had tacked on another nine points, leaving the scoreboard reading 23-0 as Mei Depatie returned an interception for a major, while Lara El-Darazi added a two point conversion, as did Leduc, who capped off the scoring with a single.
And with the defense pitching a shutout, this was a well-balanced win, on both sides of the ball.
"Our defense has always been outstanding," noted coach Smith. "We barely let anyone past half this year. That was pleasing to see. But we've generally been a running team, at least since I've been coaching, because I'm not really the best at teaching how to catch and run routes and everything."
"It's something I've learned from other coaches. But this year, we developed our passing game. It was much better than it has ever been. We had to do it in that first exhibition game, with the narrow field. It got me out of my comfort zone as a coach. It gave a ton of confidence to throw the ball."
That confidence, apparently, also extended to the catching ability of the Confederation defence. In addition to the pick six from Depatie, the likes of Ferguson, Pitura and Macie Savoie all finished the season with multiple INTs.
"Interceptions can be tough," said Pitura. "It's hard to tell where the ball is going, whether it's behind you, in front of you. You kind of have to estimate and then hope that you catch it."
Equally as tough, in the eyes of some, is the skill required to strip the flag from an opposing sprinter in full flight. "I find diving helps," said Pitura. "When I dive, I try and jump so that I have that extra length."
That would come in handy as the Chargers did an excellent job at keeping Lasalle's most dangerous threat in check. "Mac Roberts is a really good runner," said Pitura. "She's very fast and she breaks my ankles, a lot. We were really watching out for her, and the long throws."
And yet for a much as the victory represented a culmination of several strategic elements coming together nicely, the real benefit of the 2020 season lies in the more long-term vision for coach Smith.
"Twelve of my fourteen players are grade elevens," he said. "From my viewpoint as a coach, the plus was really that I got to keep this group together for another year. I wanted to keep that momentum. The results were awesome and I'm really proud of them, but really, this was about keeping them together and ready for next year, where I hope that we have a regular year, a proper year."
Therein, perhaps, lies the biggest single takeway.
"I don't know that we could have had a much better season in a pandemic," said Smith. "Everyone really came together to make it happen in a very safe way."
"It was a bonus to even have a season."