When they needed it most, Royce Hanna supplied the Central Cyclones with a big play.
Hanna ran a punt back 61 yards with 7:39 left in the game and the Cyclones defence did the rest in a 16-10 win over the Vanier Vikings in Moose Jaw High School Football League quarter-final action.
“I usually catch the ball and see what the blockers can give me. That was all my blockers,” said Hanna of his return. “I’ve been waiting for one of those. I haven’t had one all season.
“This is something else. I love this team. I don’t know what to say, this is fantastic.”
It was a tough battle in a city final rematch of a year ago. Though the Vikings came in with a losing record, they had lost to the Cyclones by a single point in their earlier meeting and played with confidence.
The Vikings opened the scoring when Haydenn Teriann connected with Matt Morris for an 84-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Vikings conceded a safety and took a 7-2 lead into the half.
Each team turned the ball over four times in the first half.
“Defensively that was one of our best games all year,” said Central head coach Colin Belsher. “All year Vanier has been hitting that big play and they struck us a couple of times with it. We can live with that big play once in awhile as long we can stop those intermediate ones.
“We held on just enough to get by. It was a good win for us.”
On the first play of the second half, Central quarterback Bren Forbes run a draw 48 yards to surpass the Cyclones’ rushing output for the entire first half.
Forbes finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to grab a 9-7 lead.
Late in the quarter Vanier’s Devon Schweiger kicked a 16-yard field goal to put the Vikings back in front 10-9.
After Hanna’s punt return gave the Cyclones the lead back, they marched the ball to the Vanier 22 yard line before falling short on a third-down gamble.
Vanier took over with 2:38 left in the game and marched the ball 50 yards to the Central 38 before they failed on a third down gamble with 1:15 left.
“In two facets of the game we were strong. We struggled all year with special teams and it hurt us today. Our offence had the ball, we had time, we had all of our time outs — that’s all you can ask for,” said Doug Panko from Vanier, who announced he was stepping down as head coach after the game. Ryan Gottselig will take over next season after being an assistant with the Vikings.
Forbes broke off a 46-yard run to seal the win.
Both teams finished by committing five turnovers each — seven of those 10 coming on failed third-down gambles.
The Cyclones advance to a league semifinal next Saturday, while Peacock will host the other league semifinal. Times and opponents are still to be determined.