By: Mike Still (@mikestill94)
Feature photo: Members of the Vincent Massey Trojans celebrate after winning the ANAVETS Bowl.
In the regular season, Vincent Massey battled to a hard-fought 14-10 win over the St. Paul’s Crusaders in a game that came down to the final minute. The case was much the same on Friday night in the ANAVETS Bowl, as senior Kyler Filewich got his 6’8″ arm up in the air to block a St. Paul’s field goal as time expired, preserving a 28-25 win for the Trojans.
“Unreal,” he said postgame.
“I knew they were going to try that so I had to get to the right gap and get my hands up. I knew I’m strong and I’m tall. It actually hit my helmet.”
The victory marked a clean sweep for the program, as they also won the JV title over Grant Park the night before. It’s also the first time the Crusaders have lost in the final since 2015, once again to Massey.
The #10 nationally ranked Trojans entered the season as heavy favourites to make it to the finals, due in part to the fact that they had 30 seniors back for this year. A multitude of them made big plays in this one, including quarterback Jackson Tachinski — the contest MVP who led his team on the game-winning touchdown drive with just 30 seconds left, and Bison commit Vaughn Lloyd, who made big plays in the run and passing game despite an ACL injury suffered earlier in the year.
The score in the first half mimicked that of the team’s week three regular season contest: a defensive slugfest. The Trojans got on the board on their first drive of the game thanks to some power running from fellow Bison commit Breydon Stubbs, and a Tachinski keeper for the touchdown, while St. Paul’s hit pay dirt on a Brody Lawson pass to sophomore Muludesta Yitna and also got two safeties from their defence. Aside from that both sides were stout, forcing one turnover each.
Massey would re-take the lead late in the third quarter on a Tachinski naked bootleg and would make it 21-11 with ten minutes to play on a Stubbs rushing touchdown that was set up by a big catch from Filewich. But the Crusaders kept their composure, taking a 25-21 lead with 2:25 to go thanks to another Yitna grab and a Lawson QB keeper.
That’s when Tachinski entered clutch mode, moving the ball all the way downfield for the game-winning touchdown pass to junior Riley Ho, who had a ton of critical receptions late in the ballgame and was also an efficient kick returner. Shad Nkiasi-Nsebwir and Ishe Matange also had catches on the drive.
“I was just thinking of Eli Manning in the Super Bowl beating the Patriots,” he said with a chuckle postgame. “I wanted that game-winning drive and I wanted that win so badly. Nothing was going to stop me from getting that.”
Nothing was going to stop Filewich either, as he erased a big kick return from Yitna by blocking Vince DeRosa’s 32-yard field goal attempt to seal the win.
“Nothing but joy,” he said of the victory. “We put in the work for three years and it’s just great to see it pay off.”