The voice of experience proved very handy for the Lockerby Vikings junior girls flag football team on Thursday afternoon.
Implementing a few key tweaks that came courtesy of the senior Vikes, the collection of grade nine and ten talent intercepted no less than four passes, including a pair by Kaja Beljo and a late-game pick six from Meava Sullivan, downing the Confederation Chargers 9-1 in the SDSSAA junior final.
"We got a lot of tips from our senior team, we scrimmaged against them a lot," noted safety Jessica Severinac, who opened the defensive thievery with an interception that set the tone early in the game. "We switched up a couple of positions, with our corners and our rusher, and then we got some tips on how to play our safeties."
"Our safeties were off a bit, and I'm one of those safeties. It was easier to tell where they were going. I could see the whole field, I could see everything that was going to happen."
Through the opening half of play, there wasn't much at all that was going to happen, at least not offensively. Sydney Coe (Lockerby) and Taylor MacNeill (Confederation) traded singles, the contest deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the final 22 minutes of play.
The Vikings added to their lead, midway through the second half, benefitting from a Charger infraction, in their own end zone, while returning a punt, a miscue that resulted in a safety touch and a 3-1 Lockerby lead.
Serving as the rusher in this contest, Sullivan did a nice job to recognize a short pass quickly, contorting herself sideways to snare the ball and scamper more than half the field to paydirt, more or less driving the final nail into the Confederation coffin. And while positioning was key for the Viking defenders, it takes more than just being in the right spot in order to come up with a big turnover.
"I play baseball, so the throwing and catching parts (of football), I have down pat," said Severinac. "I'm not scared of the ball, just because I've been hit so many times with a baseball - that's probably not a good thing to say."
In addition to the help from the senior Lockerby crew, Severinac and company also spent some time in the video room, so to speak. "We've all watched a couple of football movies, I can't remember the names, and watched a few games to see some plays," said the 15 year-old grade 10 athlete.
Ironically, in spite of lending a helping hand to their younger brethren, the senior Vikes were unable to complete the sweep, beaten 12-6 in the Pool B final by the Lively Hawks. Behind 6-0 at the half, the Hawks regained control of the contest in a matter of minutes.
"We came out in the second half, ran our first few plays and a throw, and they had to call a timeout," noted veteran quarterback Addison Elliott. "We were about 25 yards away from the end zone and I was able to run it in. Just after that touchdown, we got an interception (Fyscher McQueen)."
That would set up a strike to Charla Zelinsky, from Elliott, providing the margin of victory and capping off a season that went unexpectedly well. "We put our team together quite quickly, we couldn't take all of the girls that we would normally have, and we literally only had two practices before our first game," said Elliott.
"But there was something about it. We all just clicked really well."
Though the 17 year-old grade 12 pivot was always a threat to run, it was the chemistry that developed with her receivers that really made Lively dangerous. "I was able to look to all of our players, and whether they were getting the ball or not, they were ready," said Elliott. "There were a couple of times where the play that we were running did not work out and I had to rely on (center) Katie Punkari."
"I made like one second eye contact with her, and I knew that she was there for me."
And though Lockerby could not hold on, in the end, there were very few lowered heads, if any, as the squad left the field. "We thought that we played one of our best games of the year," stated defensive halfback Heidi Michaud. "Six of us are grade twelves, so it was a pretty sad moment, but we had no regrets."
"We played well."
In the end, the 17 year old who is looking to pursue her studies in Concurrent Education either at Laurentian or Nipissing summarized the attraction of flag football to the girls - even if the words escaped her, at times.
"It's just such a totally different sport; I don't even know how to explain it," said Michaud. "Obviously, be competitive when it comes to the games, but when you're at practice, just have fun, be goofy."